Why are people always bothered about Black women having luxury goods, namely the Hermès Birkin? This recycled and repackaged conversation is laced in antiblackness and misogynoir and it’s so important to dissect it. If a woman can afford a Birkin bag and wants it, let her rest.
All of a sudden, City Girls have Black women screaming ‘Birkin bag me’ and now, Birkin bags are ugly and overhyped? Every time Black women are seen to be enjoying anything that is deemed to be luxurious, whether bought or gifted, people are quick to put Black women down. I think that the negativity is never focused on the individual, but based on assumptions of what Black women are deemed to be and that is extremely flawed. Drake collects Birkins for his future wife but the energy wasn’t the same. Why is that?
Cardi B said it perfectly.
It’s nonsensical to question how these rappers like Saweetie, Cardi or the City Girls are able to afford these highly coveted products, as if they are not rich women. By no means is obtaining the Hermès Birkin an easy task and there are two main reasons for this. First of all, the astronomical price tag acts as an accessibility barrier. We are talking at least $12,000 up to even six figures for this bag, whether it is brand new or pre-loved. At this point, you would have to accumulate enough wealth to even consider purchasing. Secondly, you can’t go to the Hermès store and simply request to purchase one: the bag is very exclusive because of its craftsmanship and influence. If you search on YouTube ‘How to get a Hermès Birkin’, you’ll see videos about how women across the globe scramble for this luxury bag, with some even go as far as traveling to Paris for this highly sought bag.
Just because Black women are able to obtain luxury goods does not mean that its value has depreciated. The idea of Black women reducing the value of a brand suggests that Black women are inferior, inferior enough to depreciate the value of elite brands. Absolutely nothing is inferior about Black women or women in hip hop who are generally large consumers of luxury goods. In fact, Hermès should even acknowledge the influence of Black women in hip hop and rap that provide them with more customers, prolonging the demand for the exclusive bag. Matter of fact, the value increases because of us and more generally, hip hop culture. Again, credit to Cardi B in her Instagram video:"They say we depreciate the value. Actually, we add value! When we mention brands in hip hop, that sh*t goes up."
From the foundations of hip hop culture, name dropping has been prominent. The regular name dropping of ‘Louboutin’ or ‘Birkin’, in the case of the Saweetie and the City Girls has actually increased the values of these luxury brands. Clearly, Black women and hip hop culture are the blueprint. For instance, when Bodak Yellow dropped, Cardi caused a 217% increase in Christian Louboutin’s search traffic back in 2017 and she has an estimated $4.5 million in media value - again, influence. Similarly, her reference to Balenciaga in I Like It earned her a campaign with the luxury brand for their autumn/winter 2020 collection. This is the first time Balenciaga has ever cast a celebrity for their campaign since 2015 and Cardi’s first luxury collaboration.
In the words of Davido, ‘Omo in this life, have money or you go suffer’, it’s very important for society not to remain critical of Black women and luxury. Being able to afford expensive products doesn’t mean that they are fake or you are dealing with a fraudster.
The luxury movement is a necessity, especially when Black women remain mistreated in the world. But, I think it is also vital to define luxury for ourselves, because for the majority of us a Birkin bag may not be attainable, but maybe a Louis Vuitton clutch or TELFAR bag is luxury to another woman. Luxury doesn’t always have to be materialistic either, sometimes it can just be peace of mind, which can be difficult living in a world where the struggles and traumatic experiences of Black women are commodified.
Luxury was never meant to be accessible to Black women because the nature of it being exclusive to a certain class. But now Black women are redefining the luxury movement for themselves; whether it’s a designer bag, a therapy session or peace of mind.
Written by Bashirat Oladele