My Hermès history starts a decade ago, with
a graduation Kelly from my cousin. A Birkin
I received as a gift. A Jige clutch I bought for
myself, after serious rationalization.
There have been other bags in my life. A
Calvin here, a Prada there. But after one season,
my affection wanes. I can't explain it.
"I can," says Hilary. "You're a snob."
But an Hermès bag I'll use forever.
"Keep rationalizing," says Hilary.
An Hermès purchase
values. Like patience.
("I'm sure we still
have your request,"
the manager assured
me on the telephone.
"We'll call you if the
bag comes in.")
"Notice the use of
'if,' not 'when,' " says
I mean, if paying
more for a handbag
than a small car is so outrageous, why is
there a waiting list to do so?
Hilary regards me quizzically. "Were
you dropped on your head as a child?"
After lunch, we walk down Madison. Several
blocks south we stop to return my bogus
Bolide. Hermès, Gucci, and Prada likenesses
line the tiny shop's window display,
vaguely resembling an airport duty-free.
I place the return on the jewelry counter.
The case houses copies of Kenneth Jay
Lane, which seems a tad redundant.
"Ooh," exclaims Hilary, excited.
"May I see that tote?"
The shopkeeper, smiling, pulls down
a structured, bamboo-handled pigskin
like the one Hilary saw at the Gucci boutique
"It's a very good copy," says Hilary,
looking the bag over.
"We prefer the term look-alike," the
Hilary picks up a smaller, bamboo-handled
soft sack in napa leather.
"Made in Italy," says the shopkeeper.
"Like all our bags."
"It's adorable," says Hilary. "And I
haven't seen it all over."
"You will," says the shopkeeper. "It's
not in the States yet. We sell the new
styles here first."
How does that work?
"I go to Europe twice a year," says
the woman. "Visit our factories. See the
So you see the new designs and sketch
|She shakes her head no.
You don't go?
"I don't sketch."
I realize that, legally, we're treading
The bamboo-handled tote is $425,
roughly what I paid for the Bolide copy.
"The real Gucci's about $700," says
Hilary. "Not as great as the Hermès differentials."
"Would you like to
do an even exchange?"
asks the shopkeeper.
No thanks. She
credits my Visa.
it comes right down to
it, I feel weird. It's the
issue of authenticity.
What does it say about
me, as a person, if I
carry a knockoff?
The sensible person's
argument: What is the thing, anyway?
Leather, some hardware. What
does it matter who makes it?
It matters. I can't tell you why, but it
Hilary's right. I must have been dropped
on my head as a child.
Ralph Lauren, third floor. Hilary's looking
at fall. Loitering by the accessories case,
I perform an act of gentle masochism.
May I see that bag, please?
The saleswoman hands it to me.
The brown crocodile envelope with
the sterling-silver tip. I first saw it twelve
years ago. I should have bought it then.
Then, the price was nearly reasonable.
Since, it's outperformed the Dow.
Why do I torture myself? I glance at
the price tag.
$290. Clearly mismarked. Generally,
this bag costs more than 20 times that. I
check the larger size. $350.
"Genuine sterling tip," says the saleswoman.
I examine the rest of the bag. Good
God. It's mock.
It's finally happened. Ralph's taken
the initiative and they're knocking themselves
It occurs to me that I might be giving
the issue a little too much thought. I go
home to lie down.
The next day I call Hermès. Any word
on the brown Bolide?
Patience is a virtue. But will it balance
out the vices?