Many of you know that I'm a big fan of exotic designer bags. My legs tremble when I see a croco Hermes Birkin, a python Louis Vuitton or an ostrich Dior.
I remember when I was a little child my mom had crocodile shoes. Of course, they weren't real crocodile but the color was amazing, a rich deep chocolate brown. I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world. Once my mom was out for work, I opened the closet and tried on those shoes. A few sizes more but I didn't care.
I fell in love with exotic accessories for the rest of my life.
I had many exotic bags. If you're thinking about getting a crocodile Chanel Flap, an ostrich Hermes Birkin or a python Alma BB from Louis Vuitton, this article will reveal all pros and cons for you to make the right choice.
Current prices of luxury exotic bags (Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior, Chanel)
Here is the actual price comparison between a leather version of a renowned designer bag and its exotics sister (updated September 2019)
|Louis Vuitton Alma BB
|Dior Lady Dior Large
|Chanel Classic Flap
|Hermes Birkin 25
Why do exotic luxury bags cost that much?
It seems that the first reason is the scarcity of the materials. However, if you've even been to Thailand, you've seen thousands of exotic leather bags. They cost about $300-$400, they weren't manufactured under a strong international brand still the leather is real and the quality is astonishing.
Apparently, in some cases like Birkin Himalaya, the price may involve the scarcity factor. Himalaya crocodiles are rare and the leather requires a lot of craftsmen working hours to fully remove the pigment. This is one of the reasons it costs over $50,000.
However, my guess is exotic bags are expensive not only because of its scarcity but also because even the high-end brands need to create premium products for their most popular products. Why sell Alma BB for $1,230 when you can create a crocodile version of the same bag that will cost $22,200 and that will make her new owner feel great about herself?
So to buy or not to buy exotics? Here's the question. Let's consider the durability of this bag.
Ostrich bags: durability and functionality
These are the bags I had that were ostrich: Hermes Birkin, Louis Vuitton Alma BB, Louis Vuitton Lockit MM.
The pain point of all ostrich bags are handles. They will get dark with time because of the sweat and oil that our hands produce. I'd recommend to buy twillies straight away to protect the handles and keep your bag nice as long as possible.
If you want the original color to stay, protect the bag from sun as they will lighten the color of the purse. I don't mean that you shouldn't take the bag out in sunlight but at least store it in the closet.
Corners will mostly be fine. You don't need to baby your bag for that.
Ostrich is my favorite leather. I love the looks plus it's very durable. Ostrich is not afraid of rain and snow and unless you throw a bag into a loblolly, it's unlikely to have any water stains.
The most typical wear for bags in ostrich leather is when these small leather dots start flaking:
Here's a video review of my Alma BB is Ostrich leather.
Python bags: durability and functionality
Python is my second favorite exotic leather. Here are the bags I had in python leather: Lady Dior Large, Louis Vuitton Artsy MM in Python (2), Gucci Stirrup Python Clutch.
Python is fragile. It looks amazing on the boutique shelf but as soon as you take it out, the small bits of leather start to exfoliate and the bag doesn't look like new anymore.
Crocodile bags: durability and functionality
I haven't had a crocodile bag ever.
As you've seen in the exotic leather comparison table, crocodile or alligator bags are the most expensive. This leather is sturdy and it keeps the bag structured very well.
Whenever you're considering a crocodile version of LV, Birkin or Chanel, you know that it's a purse for special occasions. I mean it looks great on a red carpet but if you take it too the corporate end of year party, that would be too much. Think how many times a year you're able to take it out.
If you get tired of the bag, it'll be almost impossible to sell it at a reasonable price unless it's Hermes. Even with Hermes you'll probably have to wait several months before selling your beauty.
Restoration and bag spa for exotic leather bags
There's one big misbelief that we all fell for. Buying a bag for $10,000-20,000 you'd think that it's indestructible. Standing in a jet-setting boutique you tell yourself that it might probably be an investment and yes it costs a fortune but you'll pass on this bag to your grandchildren.
The truth is you probably won't. These bags wear out like all the non-exotic bags. In fact, a leather bag in many cases can easily be restored but an exotic leather bag is much more difficult to care for. Can you see that the handles of Jennifer Lopez' Birkin have darkened considerably?
Be prepared that it'll have scratches, stains and other wear and tear like any other bag you had.
Bottom line. Should you pay 5-20 times more to get an exotic version of your favorite bag style?
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Designer exotic leather bags are a bad investment (the only exclusion would probably be an Hermes Birkin Himalaya). Generally, they're loose at least 50% of their original price right after you walk out of the boutique. They're hard to sell cause not too many people are into exotic leather bags and even fewer people have the right amount of money to be on the hunt for one.
I'll give you an example. An original Louis Vuitton Artsy MM is about $2,000. Its python sister is $11,000. If you have both bags and decide to sell them, you can earn about $1,400-$1,500 from the Artsy MM Monogram version and about $3,500-$4,000 from the python Artsy provided they're both in good condition. All in all, a Monogram Artsy lost about 25% of its original price while the python Artsy lost about 60-65%.
Considering this fact, I wouldn't recommend you to buy exotics at all unless you're a crazy exotic bag collector like me.
If you are a crazy exotic bag collector, my advice would be don't buy at the store, buy preloved. You can find a lot of exotic items in great condition worth 60-90% (!) of their initial price. Look out for great deals and you will definitely find them.