After some prodding, Hermès agreed to comment on the subject of the large number of highly priced (seemingly) Hermès handbags on offer at discount shops around Hong Kong. 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 Hermès: How many of these bags are made each year?
Back came the answer from Jessica Chan, Hermès 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 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 Hermès won't admit to making them, who did? But it seems the good folks at Hermès don't want to tell us why from Wellington Street to Taikoo Shing to Sheung Shui and Tsim Sha Tsui you can buy bugs purporting to be Hermès 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 - why else would someone pay so much for the bags? Which invites the question: 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 it's not Hermès?
For more details on indiscriminate discretionary spending, see Anna's wealth blog at scmp.com/wealthblog