As an average working women supporting a family amidst an unrelenting pandemic, the last thing I am concerned about is a Hermès Birkin bag. Keeping my sanity under strict social distancing guidelines, while trying to keep food on the table have me pretty preoccupied. And frankly, this conversation is out of my pay grade. However, as a Black woman who appreciates nice things, when money is flowing, I scoff at the recent backlash Black and Latina celebrity women like Cardi B and The City Girl’s have faced over their decision to proudly brag about their Birkins. Nary a conversation existed when white women like Kim Kardashian, Bethanny Frankel or Lady Gaga showed off their Birkin collections. Yet here we are again, criticizing Black women who can obviously afford the expensive and in-demand bag.
In a now viral social media post reposted on Instastories by Cardi B, user Celestial Thug apologizes if he or she comes across as “anti-Black” but asserts “Birkins have literally lost their value.” Then adds, “The City Girls and Cardi have got y’all convinced that these Birkin bags are easy to get.”
The conversation arose after an abundance of Black celebrity women rightfully boasted about their Birkins, leading to critics questioning their authenticity and how difficult it is to obtain the bag that ranges in price from $9,000 -$400,000. They also claimed Birkins can’t be purchased at the Hermès store, which Cardi B took to her social platform to clarify.
“I find that really interesting right,” Cardi said responding to the polarizing social media message. “Because first things first, I definitely could get a bag. Actually, I got four bags today from the Hermes store, that’s one.”
The Hermès Birkin bag came to fruition in the 80s after then executive chairman, Jean-Louis Dumas was inspired by British actress Jane Birkin to make a bag big enough and luxurious enough to accommodate a young working mother, who of course travels a lot. (She complained to Dumas during a flight from London to Paris). And since there are limited quantities of the animal skin bag and an alleged long-waiting list to acquire one, the Birkin bag has become the ultimate status symbol and a coveted item in celebrity closets.
Insert Celestial Thug, who referenced the infamous Birkin waiting-list, which is a popular whisper in the fashion industry. Basically, if you don’t have connections or superstar fame, one of your only chances to score one might be at a luxury auction.
“Birkins are the most sought after bag in the world and have been for a long time,” Matthew Rubinger, director of luxury accessories at the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions told Forbes.
As mentioned above by User Celestial Thug, there are only a limited amount of Birkin bags made per year, which leads to its long backlog. “These bags are supposed to be exclusive and you’re supposed to be big in the fashion world and have relationships with these people to get one,” he continued.
Last time we checked, Cardi B is a fashion icon in the making. Her Balenciaga billboard debuted on the side of the Louvre museum, in Paris, earlier this year. She also released a collection with Reebok this month. She is a fashion week front row fixture around the world and reigning Met Gala best-dressed celebrity. She’s covered Vogue. And we can’t omit her collaborations with FashionNova… (That’s just to name a few). Yet, she isn’t worthy enough to buy a Birkin? Let alone, a real one?
“A little rap duo from Miami who can’t even land a Vogue cover or a #1 do not have authentic Birkin bags I’m sorry,” the post concluded.
The City Girls have long rapped about Birkin bags as a prized possession. “Real a** bitch, give a fuck ’bout a nigga / Big Birkin bag, hold five, six figures,” begins their popular song Act Up. Following in the bloody footsteps of Cardi B, who name dropped Balenciaga on her debut album, making them extra trendy (just keeping it real). We know for a fact, the impression these artists have on large followings and consumers of luxury brands. The City Girls influenced an entire summer anthem. While pregnant. A single mention of these brands in their songs equate to sales. A point Cardi noted in her response, “Another thing is, they say we depreciate the value. Actually, we add value. Because in Hip-Hop, when we mention brands in Hip-Hop, their sh-t go up.”
“I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks” -Cardi B, “I Like It”
This isn’t a conversation about who they are and if they’ve garnered enough fame to own the bag, it’s about archaic fashion rules that have always excluded Black women as deserving of luxury lifestyles as if we too don’t work hard to earn the items white women easily inherit.
Cardi B’s husband Offset faced backlash when he purchased their daughter Kulture a Birkin bag for her second birthday. Whereas Kylie Jenner was praised for gifting her baby girl Stormi with a similar gift. The constant undertone that a Birkin bag is acceptable for one race and not the other is where we must draw a line. Especially denoting if a Black woman has one that it must be fake. Whether it’s Cardi B, whose outspoken and blunt personality ruffles the feathers of her haters, or The City Girls, who might not be in the old fashion gatekeeper’s definition of fame, Black women deserve to bask in luxury without having without discussion. Or the assertion that if we have said item, it couldn’t be real.
Stand by while I come with receipts. According to Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series report, Black women’s brand affinity to brands is “driving total Black spending power toward a record $1.5 trillion by 2021.”
So next time you question if a Black woman can absolutely have a real Birkin, remember, we got the coin boo.