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Handbags - Expert's Pick

Editor’s Pick: Hermès Birkin Alligator Matte Ciel

Handbag guru Reece Morgan pays homage to his pre-loved handbag of the month.

There are Birkins and then there are exotic Birkins. While the former is hardly to be kicked around, it is designed to be an everyday workhorse, albeit for the lucky few. The latter, meanwhile, is in a whole different league. It’s what bag collectors call a “Grail Bag”, which means its job is to drop jaws. 

Hermès Birkin Alligator Matte Ciel

In the land of exotics, the reigning queen is the Birkin “Himalaya” Crocodile, so-named because its scales and colours align in the shape of a white peak in the centre. Last June, one sold for a breath-taking £273,000, despite its shop price being under a third of that. The next rung down the exotic ladder is the alligator.

Although alligator and crocodile are largely the same in terms of quality and style, the former is slightly less rare. Where Hermès only makes one or two Himalaya Crocodile bags per year, it makes tens if not hundreds of alligator pieces. But this, of course, is still a teeny weeny number on a global scale. In fact, even “standard” Birkins are only produced in the thousands, and those can have waiting lists anywhere up to six years.

Hermès Birkin Alligator Matte Ciel

The reason for such low numbers is the fastidiousness with which the French house approaches its work. Each alligator Birkin receives the attention of only one highly trained artisan and can take a number of days to craft. The scales, which to the unwitting eye are effortlessly smooth and in harmony with one another, are selected and aligned with the precision of a pointillist. The colouring process for such exquisite skins can take a further number of days and the lighter the shade the harder it can be.

Indeed colour is all-important in terms of value and effect, and this Matte “Ciel”, French for sky, is the freshest tincture I have seen in recent years. It’s an exquisite shade of bleu celeste, which perfectly complements the skin and showcases the intricate detail of the scales.

Describing this handbag as an artwork is no overstatement, and the spiralling auction prices of similar pieces are testaments to this. In 2017, in fact, Christies started running handbag-only auctions for the first time, and on that scene Hermès is the Pablo Picasso.

So if like me you’re moved by the colour, and if you’re fortunate enough to be comfortable in the jaw-dropper market, or perhaps just a canny investor, then here’s my gift to you, my find of the month!

Hermès Birkin Alligator Matte Ciel

You can find more details, price and pictures of this Hermès Alligator Ciel here or you can read more reviews and style tips from our handbag team on Xupes magazine.