Mystery of the Hermes Birkins
ANNA HEALY FENTON
On the subject of the large number of highly priced (seemingly) Hermes handbags on offer at discount shops around Hong Kong, Hermes has agreed to comment. Well sort of. As I mentioned last week, the Japanese store Brand Off is selling allegedly Birkin bags for a whopping HK$458,000, a price no one would pay, surely, for a fake bag. So the question was put to Hermes. Could they tell me how many of these bags are made each year? And is the number limited?
Back came the answer from Jessica Chan, Hermes assistant press and advertising Manager. “Hermès fights counterfeiting with absolute determination. The house guarantees that all bags purchased in its store are genuine but makes no comment on bags obtained from other sources,” she said, adding: “FYI. Hermès Birkin bag was created in 1984. Thank you!” Her colleague Wing Chak Press & Advertising Manager, Hermès Asia Pacific added firmly: “There is no comment on bags obtained from other sources, thank you!”
I replied that I didn’t think these were counterfeit, just being sold by Japanese discount houses and if Hemes themselves won’t admit to making them, who did? But it seems the good folks at Hermes don’t want to tell us how come from Wellington Street to Taikoo Shing to Sheung Shui and Tsim Shat Tsui you can buy bugs purporting to be Hermes ostrich Birkin for HK$338,000 or a Birkin Kelly 28 crocodile noir in pale blue for HK$148,000. If these are counterfeit, they must be indistinguishable from the real thing. And then why pay this much when you can get Shenzhen knock-offs for a fraction of the price? It makes no sense if they are really fakes. So the question remains, who is the mystery manufacturer of these exorbitantly expensive bags, if not Hermes themselves?
Pocket Money Fund
It may not be fashionable to say it, but good things do come out of Singapore. The Singapore Straits Times has come up with a good idea – getting wealthy people to donate to give hard up kids pocket money to pay for their school bus and lunch. Previously the scheme was just for primary and secondary children, but feedback from social workers highlighted the need for continuing help up to third level education at colleges, universities and polytechnics. The authorities found many students continued to struggle to pay for transport and food. Currently, beneficiaries receive S$55 a month in primary and S$90 in secondary school.
An amount of S$1.5 million has been earmarked from January 1 next year, with more than 1,250 college students eligible to receive S$120 a month for basic needs. The fund was launched in 2000, and to date has raised S$52 million and helped 94,000 cases. The expanded scheme covers existing and past beneficiaries and siblings. Given Hong Kong’s stark rich-poor divide, wouldn’t this scheme be worth having here?