weekend read: bringing home the birkin

when i first spied bringing home the birkin in my friendly neighborhood bookstore, i was instantly intrigued.  the hermès birkin, for those that aren’t familiar, is widely regarded as “the” handbag.  it’s the one that’s impossible to get, that’s a symbol of wealth and success for everyone from socialites to celebrities – or, for a more direct route, it’s the bag that samantha in sex and the city had to use lucy liu’s name to procure.

hermès possesses this unique brand mystique that’s unlike any other design house in the world.  they have somehow managed to convince us all that we are lucky to shop there, and not the other way around.  pretty amazing, actually.  so when i saw a chance to learn a little about the inner workings of the mother ship from a very notorious (and highly controversial) reseller, i couldn’t help but check it out.

the premise of the book is the author’s rise to “greatness” (a term i’m using very loosely) as one of the main resellers of hermes items on ebay.  it chronicles how he got started, how he acquired his merchandise, and dabbles a little in travel-writing along the way, as he describes trips to various regions to buy hermes items from stores around the world.

ultimately, i got about what i expected.  for those that are hermès devotees, or just insanely curious about how the “who’s who” set actually obtains these gorgeous bags, it’s well worth a read.  whatever opinion i have of the author personally, there’s no question he was able to acquire a lot of birkins during his time – by hook or by crook.

but fair warning:  the author is, frankly, not a great writer (not that i’m hemingway…).  he’s also incredibly pompous, self-serving, and even annoying at times.  i suffered through until the end due to a combination of insatiable curiousity and train-wreck-voyeurism.

in the end (spoiler alert…that should not come as a shock in this case), tonello is blacklisted at hermès.  but, at least according to him, that doesn’t happen until he’s already “lost his taste” for the reseller business.  personally, i found the timing comically coincidental, and couldn’t help wondering about the order in which the final events in the book actually occurred.  but then, it’s his biography…he can play with timelines all he wants.

so, what do you think – will you be adding this “weekend read” to your bookshelf?

Shop for luxury clothing at BlueBee.com!

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21 comments on “weekend read: bringing home the birkin

  1. Doris Ashworth

    Interesting. Contradicts the New York Times piece by Janet Maslin in which she says:
    “There are two unorthodox things about this summer’s most adorable chick-lit book: It’s a work of nonfiction, and it’s written by a guy. Michael Tonello’s “Bringing Home the Birkin,” the story of one man’s relentless assault on the world’s horsiest luxury-goods label, may break the mold a bit, but it does a fine job of fulfilling this genre’s basic requirements. It’s smart. It’s fizzy. It’s amusingly snarky, with attitude to burn. The genre’s four basic food groups are ambition, romance, travel and partying, and Mr. Tonello dishily delivers (he adores alliteration) them all….Mr. Tonello’s antic memoir takes a more interesting view of consumer culture. And it has the rare advantage of being as much fun to read as it is to tote around.”

  2. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    you’re right 🙂 in fact, i read that review before i read the book – though it’s not the first NY Times review with which i’ve disagreed. to each their own, i guess!

  3. Jessie

    Some of the worst books I have ever read came off the New York Times list, I trust SMC much more to help me choose my reads!

  4. Doris Ashworth

    Well in this case SMC also contradicts the Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Herald Tribune, the Today Show and numerous others. Then again those autonomous publications don’t have any actual agenda i don’t think.

  5. a

    i totally wanted to read this based on the NYT review… poor writing really turns me off, though – I find it very distracting. I recommend Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster — extremely fascinating look at the luxury goods world and how it’s evolved, particularly in the past 10 to 15 years.

  6. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    “doris” – i have heard so much about this author’s internet personality, i’m glad to see you show up..i would have been very sad if you’d bypassed my review.

  7. Jessie

    A- that sounds like a good read, I always think that our beloved labels losing their luster with the Target effect.

  8. Doris Ashworth

    “i would have been very sad if you’d bypassed my review.”

    Wow, you are easily saddened.
    Well, you must truly must be saddened then by the fact that only two or three people appear to have read your review.

  9. Always In Style

    The New York Times Book Review is filled with [email protected] books…I’m thrilled to get an unbiased review from a blogger I trust.

    Just curious…those eBay links were just links to the main page. Do you know what this guy’s seller id is? I’d love to see a listing.

  10. Megan

    Add another one to you list the, Doris. I very much trust the reviews on this site ans was considering reading the book just fo rthe hell of it, but now am completely turned off because of your comments about this blogger. Just because a paper says something, it must be true, right?

  11. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    always in style – i’m not 100% positive, and would not want to slander a perfectly lovely ebayer. but based on the purse forum activity, i believe it’s “won4the$”.

  12. Doris Ashworth

    Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I personally find a general consensus amongst credible publications (i.e. the Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Columbus Dispatch, Boston Herald, Marie Claire Magazine, InStyle Magazine, Richmond Times Dispatch, Toronto Star, the Today Show, Access Hollywood, and dozens others) to be more reputable than an anonymous blog site. But as they say this is why Baskin Robbins makes 52 flavours. I read in InSyle that the author has two more book deals and a movie deal so I guess others are in agreement with me.

    Megan, I’m impressed that you find me to be so powerful. I should consider having my own blog, perhaps.

    Toodles all.

  13. Megan

    Don’t misunderstand me, I think you are comfusing powerful with arrogant. I am just saying that just because it is written in a “reputable” paper does not make it true. There are retractiosn written every day about much more importnant subjects than some book about a purse. You should have your own blog, maybe then people would take the review as seriously as they do when they read this one.

  14. Mrs. Moneypenny

    52 Flavors! That’s like one for each week of the year. And here I thought I’d tried them all. I simply must go and try numbers 32-52.

    Maybe the NYT has written a review of those flavors. I bet they liked them!

  15. Always In Style


    The day I rely on “Access Hollywood” for a credible book review is the day someone needs to check me into the loony bin.

    But I do appreciate the input Doris.

  16. Megan

    52 flavors…some of those are Nerds, cotton candy and some crazy green Shrek concoction. Just becase there are 52, doesn’t make them good. 🙂 But, I agree, the NYT probably loves Shrek ice cream.

  17. Doris Ashworth

    Megan: “There are retractiosn written every day… ”

    Yes, there are. Usually they are an isolated situation based on some incorrect fact.
    I’ve never heard of a review retraction. Would be rather odd for someone to write that they changed their mind or opinion. i.e. one day they loved the lobster at such and such a restaurant but this morning they decided they hated it. Ditto with a book. Perhaps you could cite an example.
    Also interesting that you find someone’s opinion to be arogant when it’s different than your own. Why is it arogant that I found this site’s review to be “Interesting. Contradicts the New York Times piece by Janet Maslin” ?
    Is there some sort of requirement here that I agree with everything posted here?

  18. Megan

    I wasn’t saying there are retractions written on reviews, I was saying that not everything you read is true. No examples necessary. Your opinion is your opinion and not everyone has to agree, but everyone on here disagrees, that’s all. I din’t find your opinion arrogant, I found the way you write arrogant. PS, I know what a retraction is, but thanks for teh vocabulary lesson.

    Beckie, I love the site

  19. Megan

    “i would have been very sad if you’d bypassed my review.”

    Wow, you are easily saddened.
    Well, you must truly must be saddened then by the fact that only two or three people appear to have read your review.

    ar·ro·gance Audio Help /ˈærəgəns/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[ar-uh-guhns] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.

    Also, ar·ro·gan·cy.


    [Origin: 1275–1325; ME < MF < L arrogantia presumption. See arrogant, -ance]

    —Synonyms haughtiness, insolence, disdain.
    —Antonyms humility, modesty, diffidence.

    If this isn’t a display of superiority, I don’t know what it.