And You Thought It Was Bad When Your Coach Bag Smelled Like Chemicals

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Suzanne B.

Oct 12, 2012

Expensive Handbags Don’t Smell Like $20,000

Hermès bags are known for being many things — iconic, coveted, and expensive — but unfortunately for some customers, they’re now also known for reeking of skunk or cannabis.

Customers have been returning designs such as the Birkin, the Kelly and the Elan clutch to Hermès boutiques after staff at the luxury fashion brand noticed that there was a problem with a badly tanned batch of leather—this caused it to smell when it was left in a hot car or direct sunlight, according to The New York Post.

The bags retail anywhere from $5,000 to more than $20,000, and were all purchased in 2013 and 2014. Hermès hasn’t commented, but customers have been advised that the affected bags will need to be returned to the Paris headquarters to have the offensive leather panels removed and be rebuilt.

One owner of a Hermès Kelly bag posted on PurseBlog: “After riding in the car with her for about 30 minutes, I smelled what I thought was a dead skunk. Another 30 minutes later I could still smell the dead skunk, and I thought it was odd, but never imagined it could be my bag. I keep [it] in an armoire… When I opened the cabinet door this morning, the smell hit me, and I immediately knew it was the bag.”

Another wrote a Yelp review of the Hermès store in Palm Beach, Fla., to complain that a recently bought Birkin stank. “We own 6 Birkin bags and they all smell great,” the review said, “so I think we know what it should smell like and skunk is not it.”

Max Brownawell, consignment director for the luxury accessories department at Heritage Auctions, where a Hermès Birkin recently sold at auction for $185,000, says that the issue is probably not all that widespread and that Hermes is keeping it under control. “We have not had that problem with any of our bags,” he says. “My guess is that it’s a one-time problem. From what I’ve heard they’ve been dealing with it very well, and I don’t think there’s anything that will dampen people’s desire for Hermès Birkins and Kellys.”

Birkin bags have become so collectible because you can’t just walk into a store and buy one. “You have to be a long-time customer and they have to offer it you,” Brownawell says, explaining that the getting-to-know-you period usually lasts a year or two. “Most people don’t want to wait years and spend $50,000 before being able to buy one, so they pay a premium to get it on the secondhand market.”

Heritage Auctions’ most recent six-figure Hermès Birkin sale was of a 30-centimeter, crocodile skin bag with diamond-encrusted hardware (it was only slightly cheaper than the record sale of a similar purse a few years ago for $203,000). More average secondhand Birkin prices are between $15,000 to $18,000.

“Every woman who’s any woman is going to be carrying a Birkin at some point,” Brownawell says. “A smell isn’t going stop anyone from carrying Birkins period.”


At the mall, BRB.
Jun 17, 2012
“Every woman who’s any woman is going to be carrying a Birkin at some point,” Brownawell says. “A smell isn’t going stop anyone from carrying Birkins period.”
:roflmfao: What a crock, "Brownawell."

:rolleyes: Fruitcake.


Adrift and At Peace
Feb 16, 2009
Based on Brownawell's assessment, guess I'm not a woman. I've never had a desire for a Birkin or understood the appeal - even if it smelled like sunshine and daffodils.

I skimmed some of the thread and it floors me that some of these folks have been waiting six months or more for a replacement. Given the money spent (not just on the bag but to build the relationship to be offered the bag), I would be absolutely livid.

At least if Coach sells me a stinky bag, I know I can return it and readily get a replacement.
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