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The “It” item comes in many forms, most of which you know well by name alone: Birkenstocks, the Fendi baguette, Chanel No 5. All brands seek to create the next must-have, but “It” items are not fleeting. They are not part of a larger trend, they do not seek virality. They are, to say the least, staples in cultures throughout the globe –– and it is most often the luxury brands among us which create them.The most notorious “It” item, however, is the Birkin bag, originally designed for actress and singer Jane Birkin, who needed a carryall bag to handle her Hermès diary, among other things. Since that first production, the Birkin bag has become for the fashion world what Babe Ruth is for baseball –– a unicorn, of sorts.[Tweet "The Birkin bag has become for the fashion world what Babe Ruth is for baseball –– a unicorn."]The Birkin bag is as elusive as it is exclusive, in both price and availability. The bag has remained the handbag industry’s most coveted item for more than 20 years. That is some serious staying power for a relatively simple bag (in looks alone, the design itself takes some 18 hours and is done by a single craftsman).Of course, this exclusivity is likely what keeps the bag at the top of every single list. It is impossible, for instance, for you to walk into an Hermès store and simply buy one –– even if you could afford to shell out the minimum price of $10,000. No, to get a Birkin, you must be on an elite list.“No one can walk in and buy a Birkin ‘from the back,’” Michelle Goad, CEO of P.S. Dept., a personal shopping app that services 20,000 luxury customers globally, told the Business of Fashion. "The key to getting one is to find someone who has a relationship with one of their associates, [which means they’ve] bought one in the past. Think of it like being interviewed. You have to have a purchase history at the store to just get started, then they meet with you, assess how serious you are about spending, and then you go on their list.”[Tweet "The genius to Birkin bag marketing is exclusive referrals which breed high-profile publicity."]That list, by the way, can produce a 10 to 15 year wait time. So, to be sold a Birkin, you must have already bought one –– unless you happen to be lucky enough to know someone who has and is willing to recommend you. But, this is the secret to Hermès’ genius Birkin bag marketing: exclusive referrals which breed high-profile publicity.Indeed, Hermès does not market the Birkin through traditional print, online or TV advertising. Instead, the company relies solely on the function of desire, allowing want-to-be customers to produce their own marketing. Among the books and TV shows that not only mention the bag, but center episodes, chapters or entire novellas on it include:
- Sex and the City
- Gilmore Girls
- Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag
- Primates of Park Avenue
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