Bringing Home the Birkin

Bringing Home the Birkin – My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag

by Michael Tonello

Where I found this title
I spotted a reference to this book in To Die For – Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?, an expose of the human and environmental exploitation carried out by the fashion industry. I was too sickened to read it in full. Just a fraction of the evidence presented here would be sufficient to convince any thinking person to consider their wardrobe choices much more carefully.

Anyway, I was intrigued enough to search for Bringing Home the Birkin on my library website and was amazed to find it in stock.

Judge this book by its cover?
Definitely not, it’s a good read, much better than the ‘jokey’ dust cover suggests. The hardcover copy I borrowed is covered with a photograph of a Birkin, plus a half dust cover in a cartoon style, with a terrible font – see above. The paperback’s cover is a similar illustration in the same colours (below). Shame, the covers don’t do the book any favours at all, and suggest the content and writing style might be a bit juvenile.

What’s it about?
It’s a great account of the thinking of a natural entrepreneur, an American beautician who finds himself living in Barcelona without an income and starts selling his designer clothes and possessions to pay the bills.

Bringing Home the Birkin is a thought-provoking and fun lesson in how necessity can produce ingenious ideas, and how persistence can pay off in dividends.

Intense eBay competition for an Hermes scarf alerts Michael to the profit potential in finding and reselling rare scarf designs, and ultimately to the Birkin, the bag that Hermes claims is only produced in tiny numbers every year.

There is not even a waiting list for this ultimate It bag, but with luck and diligence Michael hits on a formula to getting his hands on these bags, which he then sells online to a voracious market. He passes on the formula to other people so they can buy bags on his behalf, which results in one bag being held to ransom in Paris!

What I like about it
Michael Tonello is a natural storyteller with a dry wit – ‘I considered briefly putting on my sunglasses, as I remembered being blinded by his teeth the first time we met.’

Bringing Home the Birkin is a real page-turner and the story unfolds at a cracking pace taking in the purchase of designer clothes, travel all over the world, stays in exquisite hotels, and meals at the finest restaurants. All necessary business expenses to obtain his stock-in-trade!

He provides sharp insights into the people who inhabit the world of fashion, as well as the wealthy women who collect (and sometimes trade in) this leather status symbol.

There is even a love angle, as Michael meets and falls for a local teacher who doesn’t entirely approve of his unusual business.

Who would enjoy this book?
Anyone who is interested in making money, particularly in offbeat ways to do so, and in living by your wits. Also anyone interested in fashion and travel. For obvious reasons I don’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t wear leather.

I may have only just found it but Bringing Home the Birkin was a bestseller, and I can quite see why.