|Irène Major's everyday handbag is a £65,000 red Hermès Alligator skin Birkin bag|
Some might consider my everyday handbag — a £65,000 red Hermès Alligator skin Birkin bag — a little excessive. But as a mum of young children, one of whom is a toddler, I see it as nothing more than a basic essential. It’s large enough for me to put nappies in, and it goes with most of my outfits. After all, first and foremost, a handbag has to be functional, doesn’t it?
Despite using it so regularly during the 12 years I’ve owned the bag, it looks brand new. Every time it needs a clean or repair, I whizz into the Hermès store on Bond Street and they make it sparkle.
Hermès just think of everything. The Birkin even comes with a bespoke little raincoat that you pop on top of it to perfectly shield the leather from unexpected downpours. I don’t bother using mine, though — I’m too lazy to wrestle it out of the bag, Irene said.She added that:
Naturally, I’m a Hermès VIP customer. They call me ‘the Queen of Bags’. There might be a waiting list for some people but I’m not on it. When a new colour comes in, they just call me.
There was a time I was buying six bags from them a year — all paid for by my husband, Sam.
Indeed, he buys me all my bags, and jokes that I am to handbags what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. But while, yes, I don’t know exactly how many I have — certainly more than 500 — the size of my collection isn’t unjustified.
To be honest, it’s a practical measure, as we have three properties: our home in Kent, a house in Canada and a holiday home in Madagascar. Sam insists we travel light — a nightmare for me — so I’ve had to make sure I have a sufficient number of outfits, shoes and bags in each house. We’ve missed too many planes in the past with me struggling and obsessing over my luggage.
I have more than 35 Hermès Birkin bags, which each have a minimum price tag of £7,000, but many of them cost more, depending on their leather and size.
That’s not all. I also have more than 40 Hermès Kelly bags, which start at £6,500 for a basic model.
You may wonder why on earth I need so many types of the same bag — but we collectors know it makes a huge difference whether a buckle is gold or silver, or if the leather is smooth or mottled.
While my bags simply have to be designer, I’m not so fussy when it comes to my clothes. Yes, I have frocks from Chanel and Valentino, but I’m equally as happy in Zara. Indeed, this is where my bags pay for themselves — by complimenting my cheaper outfits.
In our main home in England, my bags are stored in three separate wardrobes in a dedicated room. But I’m still running out of space.
My very first was a lovely red number by French designer Lancel, bought when I was only 14. After that it was a short step to Chanel, whose bags I still love today.
One of my Chanel bags — a jumbo shoulder bag decorated with crystals and sequins, which cost £6,600 — is particularly rare. Only six were ever made, and I’ve never seen anyone else with it.
There was a time when I would buy bags which were just trendy — like those Dior saddlebags, which start at only £1,700. I used to buy four different ones each year, depending on which particular colours etc were in style.
I’m more serious about my bags today, though. They’re investments, and I treasure them.
You might expect my eldest daughter, Samantha, 16, to be thrilled to have access to so many fabulous bags. Well, she isn’t. She’s rather sensible and isn’t bothered by them at all.
Her sisters, Lulu-Marie, nine, and Pearl, six, love playing dress-up with them, though. And I’ve given a bag to each of my friends — I just adore spreading the handbag joy.
You might imagine that I have every handbag I could possibly hope for. Well, not quite. I have my eye on a Hermès Himalayan Birkin model. One of these crocodile-skin beauties sold recently at auction for more than £200,000.
What does my husband think? I’ve told him a woman can never have enough bags.
After all these years, I think he finally believes me, she concluded.Irene Major lives in Kent with her husband Sam Malin, 53, who works in the oil industry and owns Burke’s Peerage. They have five children aged between 16 and 18 months.
Watch an episode of Irene Major on Kinnaka TV Special below...