Bringing Home the Birkin [NOOK Book]

Overview

An insider's hilarious, whirlwind account of his years spent globe-trotting in search of the holy grail of handbags: the Birkin

For more than twenty years, the Hermès Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth. Though the bag is often seen dangling from the arms of celebrities, there is a fabled waiting list of more than two years to buy one from Hermès, and the average fashionista has a better chance of climbing Mount Everest in Prada pumps than of ...

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Bringing Home the Birkin

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Overview

An insider's hilarious, whirlwind account of his years spent globe-trotting in search of the holy grail of handbags: the Birkin

For more than twenty years, the Hermès Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth. Though the bag is often seen dangling from the arms of celebrities, there is a fabled waiting list of more than two years to buy one from Hermès, and the average fashionista has a better chance of climbing Mount Everest in Prada pumps than of possessing one of these coveted carryalls. Unless, of course, she happens to know Michael Tonello . . .

Michael's newfound career started with an impulsive move to Barcelona, a vanished job assignment, no work visa, and an Hermès scarf sold on eBay to generate some quick cash. But soon the resourceful Michael discovered the truth about the waiting list and figured out the secret to getting Hermès to part with one of these precious bags. Millions of dollars worth of Birkins later, Michael had become one of eBay's most successful entrepreneurs—and a Robin Hood to thousands of desperate rich women.

With down-to-earth wit, Michael chronicles the unusual ventures that took him to nearly every continent, from eBay to Paris auction house and into the lives of celebrities and poseurs. Flirting with danger, Michael recounts the heady rush of hand delivering his first big score to famed songwriter Carole Bayer Sager in Paris; how he had to hire thugs to rescue a bag that one of his "shoppers" held for ransom; and the story of the Oscar-worthy performances that allowed him to snag "reserved" bags from other, less dogged Birkin seekers.

Whether he's relating his wining and dining, buying and selling, dodging and weaving, laughing and crying, or schmoozing and stammering, Michael is a master raconteur who weaves together tales of hunting Birkins in the world's most posh locales, memories of meals that would make any gastronome salivate, anecdotes of obsessed collectors with insatiable desires, and sweetly intimate stories about his family, friends, and finding true love. The result is a memoir that is distinctive, fun, page-turning, and as addictive as its namesake.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061734212
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/8/2008
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 196,743
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Originally from Massachusetts, Michael Tonello traveled the world as a makeup artist and hairdresser before resettling in Spain to become an eBay luxury reseller of all things Hermès. He resides in Barcelona with his partner, Juan.

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Read an Excerpt

Bringing Home the Birkin

Chapter One

Barcelona on the Brain

I've always thought the use of a ringing phone to symbolize the onset of great personal change was a cheap plot device, and a gross oversimplification of the various factors that inspire human metamorphosis. However, now I know better: sometimes you really can trace it all back to a phone call.

In my particular case, that life-changing phone call came early one wintry Cape Cod day—early enough that my roommate, Kate, and I were still cheerfully ensconced in our morning routine of Peet's coffee, PJs, and Rosie O'Donnell. Neither the caller nor the subject matter was by any means unusual—it was the Boston-based agency that represented me, giving me my newest assignment. A weeklong hair and makeup job for IBM in Barcelona, it had the allure of an escape from the drab and drear of mid-March Provincetown. The call certainly felt routine at the time, but we don't always know our Rubicon when it rings . . .

At least workwise, things weren't so shabby. I had a career that people who didn't know better might consider glamorous. As a beautician who specialized in commercial photography, I had spent most of the last decade trigger-happy with a can of hairspray and a powder puff. And somehow, along my merry way, I had also cofounded a company. Named Team, it was an agency that represented artists who worked, in one capacity or another, in the photography and advertising industries. The concept was both convenience and strength in numbers. Normally, an advertising exec needed to make about half a dozen phone calls to pull together a photo shoot. What mycompanydid was turn those six calls into one. Makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, location scouts, production managers, food stylists—we had it all under one roof. But good as it had been to me, my initial euphoria at being part of the fashion industry I had always worshipped as spectator was starting to wane. I had learned that celebrities were just people with name recognition, and photo shoots were as tedious as board meetings, once you had been to hundreds of them. Ten years of crafting updos and vanquishing shiny noses had driven me to uncharacteristic self-analysis. Was this really how I wanted to spend the rest of my life? Maybe not, but for now I knew one thing: I was going to Spain.

I loved traveling for work, eagerly snapping up what the industry called "go-away jobs." Nomadic by nature, I took the adage "home is where the heart is" literally—a hotel room morphed into home as long as I was in it (with the added bonuses of crisp sheets, fresh towels, and chocolates on my pillow). But lately I found myself becoming more jaded by my globe-trotting. Not because of the silly things you always heard those bridge-club biddies bemoaning in the airport—it wasn't lost luggage or the lack of a proper bagel that had me down. I didn't mind the calculus of currency conversion or the etymology of exotic entrées. No, it wasn't the inconvenience inherent to travel that was burning me out. It was boredom. I had increasingly noticed a sinister sameness about each of these foreign cities. Before my very eyes, every place was turning into every place else. I fervently hoped that Barcelona would prove to be the exception.

I sighed with disappointment andslumped against the hot vinyl seat of the taxi. Other than the flamenco music on the radio and the blinding glare of the Catalan sun, so far Barcelona felt about as foreign to me as Boston. Tacky billboards advertising electronics and cheap hotels flashed by my window at an alarming rate. Was there any place left in the world that didn't look like one giant strip mall? Maybe it was time for me to settle down. Maybe I needed the white picket fence and the Weber grill after all.

A mere five minutes later, my cynicism forgotten, I was as mesmerized by the view as a midwesterner crossing the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. I didn't know which way to look. To my left loomed the impressive bulk of the 1992 Olympic Stadium, capped off by a towering white spire that was an unlikely mating of futuristic space station and computer-generated sculpture. To my right, the Mediterranean. I was dazzled not only by the turquoise shimmer of the sea but by the hundreds of boats lining the docks. Luxury cruise ships, privately owned yachts, behemoth tankers, modest sailboats—somehow, seeing one of the world's biggest ports was far more impressive than reading about it in Fodor's. Suddenly, I was as excited as a little kid on his first field trip.

But it wasn't until we left the highway and entered the city's perimeter that I truly fell under its spell. None of my extensive jet-setting had prepared me for Barcelona's unique urban landscape—palm trees edged the narrow streets, ornate buildings leaned companionably against each other, and laundry adorned nearly every balcony. The architecture spanned centuries of design—gothic intermingled withmodernist, contemporary coalesced with classic. It could have been jarring to the senses, but as I would later learn, Barcelona had a way of turning the incongruous into the harmonious. It looked like the European city I had always dreamed of but, of late, had despaired of ever finding. I was captivated.

My eight-hour days of grooming models and painting faces put a dent in what little time I had to prowl the city. However, even with the constraints of the IBM gig cutting into my tourist time, I still sampled enough of the Barcelona lifestyle to grow ever more enamored. My first instincts about the city's physical charm had been wrong—it was far more spectacular than I originally supposed. With a population of nearly two million spread out over sixty square miles, Barcelona is segmented into dozens of neighborhoods, each possessed of its own particular charm. I was hard-pressed to find an undesirable location; the place was a real estate agent's wet dream.

Bringing Home the Birkin. Copyright ? by Michael Tonello. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bringing Home the Laughs!

    Michael Tonello has a rare and special talent: he is able to saunter into a store, throw down the American Express, and buy a purse! Not impressed? This is a purse that even singer/songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, a Tonello customer, cannot purchase from the retailer. This is the purse that until recently had a two year waiting-to-buy list and was the subject of a Sex and the City episode. In short, this purse is not just any carryall, but the super exclusive and ultra expensive Hèmes Birkin.

    In Bringing Home the Birkin, Tonello finds himself living in Barcelona without a job or a work permit, and a five year apartment lease to pay. Tonello is an entrepreneurial spirit who hocks his designer duds on ebay for spending money. During one auction, Tonello strikes gold when his Hèrmes scarf is the subject of a fierce bidding war. After the auction several frustrated bidders contact him for more Hèrmes. Tonello purchases several dozen Hèrmes scarves and soon acquires powerseller status on ebay.

    Thereafter the author is introduced to the holy grail of the House of Hèrmes: the Birkin, the coveted and scarce handbag for the rich and famous. Soon the intrepid Tonello cracks "the code" to purchasing a Birkin and profits handsomely. Tonello's Birkin jaunts require him to traverse far and wide across Europe and Latin America, slumbering in 5 star hotels and dining at Zagat rated restaurants, in hot pursuit of fresh Birkins. He details the stories of his conquests with wit and sarcasm:

    If there was a secret Birkin bunker anywhere, this was the store. It was enormous, an imposing limestone building. (I had tried to figure out which floors held what while lurking inconspicuously on the sidewalk on my last trip, feeling like a fifteen-year-old casing a theater that showed X-rated movies. I knew not all the floors were devoted to merchandise (and I assumed there was at least one floor devoted to housing the Oompa-Loompas). Well, I'd soon find out . . . .

    In Bringing Home the Birkin Tonello dishes up plenty of snark and sass for the perfect summer read!


    Review based on borrowed library copy.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    loved this book!!!

    This was a great story, a great read!!! I didn't want to put it down. Very funny and witty! I highly recommend this book!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2010

    Cute Story, Bad Writing, but you'll be Orange with Envy about how this guy made $$ off the Birkin!

    I remember hearing about the book when it first came out, and finally had a chance to read it. The author takes you on an adventure across Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and South America as he hunts down and captures the elusive Hermes Birkin bag. While the story itself is quite entertaining, Tonello probably makes a better E-bay seller than author. His writing is amateurish - where was his editor on this one? Lots of cliché's. Lots of unnecessary "filler" material - I think you get recipes for every meal he ever ate - none of which has anything to do with the story at hand. But then again, you're not reading this book as great literature - you're reading it to be entertained and to learn how he was able to stumble on his chosen, albeit short-lived, career. And using just those 2 measures, it's a success.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    Who knew fashion could be so funny?

    The author doesn't even like the Birkin, but is able to get several of them. His trials and tribulations about attaining the world's most coveted handbag are funny and heartwarming. On the way, he finds love and happiness and discovers that he doesn't need the fashion. Fun read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    Very Entertaining. Loved Bringing Home the Birken

    This book was so true describing the Hermes in store experience!!!! A very funny, fast and easy reading. I couln't put the book down. After reading about the author's move to Barcelona..... It makes me want to go there on my next vacation!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2009

    FUN READ

    I loved this book!! It was light and funny. Some of the language may not be suitable for ALL readers, but I really enjoyed this book. It is amazing what people will do for a handbag.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2009

    Read this fascinating, hilarious book!!

    Michael Tonello has brilliantly written a captivating memoir/travelogue chronicling his thrilling adventures as a Hermes reseller. After moving to Barcelona, his promised job falls through. To pay the bills, he begins selling his possessions on ebay. He soon realizes the luxury brand Hermes, especially the coveted Birkin handbag, evokes a flurry of extremely wealthy buyers. By feigning a 2 year waiting list, the Birkin has built a renowned mystique. After discovering "the formula", he is able to easily obtain numerous Birkin bags at Hermes stores all around the world. He makes a nice profit on each bag sold to his rich clients. Mr. Tonello is a gifted storyteller with an engaging and spirited writing style. His sparkling wit made this book very laugh-out-loud funny. As I read, his rich, vivid descriptions allowed me to experience the luxury, food and sights of glamorous places I can only dream about. I'm reminded of the cliché, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". When his expected job fell through, rather than admit defeat, he instead chose to improvise a plan B. That is truly inspirational. His story also encourages me to take chances in life. I truly loved this very entertaining, fascinating book and I highly recommend it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2014

    Very entertaining

    This is a fun lighthearted and very entertaining book. I'd seen the title many times and passed it over thinking " who wants to read about all of the trouble you go to to get a Birkin." I am so glad that I decided to read it. It is light reading yet interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2013

    Fun adventure through life....and high end retail.

    Who would have thought buying and selling purses on ebay could be so much fun, or at least that is the impression one walks away with. Bravo, a fun and interesting read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2012

    Omigosh, I absolutely LOVED this book!  I could not put it down,

    Omigosh, I absolutely LOVED this book!  I could not put it down, for real!  Hilarious...love his sense of humor, perspective and the storyline.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2009

    ENTERTAINING ...

    I found this book quite entertaining hearing of the adventures for these highly coveted bags. It was a very easy read and was able to read it in one night ... I just could not put it down. <BR/><BR/>Its amazing to think that Hermes could create such a fervor for a simple handbag and the lengths people will go to get one! I will be trying out Michael's formula coming up soon! Wish me luck!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2009

    Entertaining & Witty Read

    I randomly picked this book up in the non-fiction section (the cover caught my eye) and was pleasantly surprised at what a fun read this was. Tonello is very witty and entertaining. Reading this book felt like you were sitting there with him over cocktails while he told you his tales of globetrotting and wining/dining. The only thing I'd say is I would have like to seen an epilogue or something of that nature that gives you an update on what he is doing now. Highly recommend this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    WITTY, AND WINNING

    Many of us probably have an idea of what a dream job would be. How about one that takes you to some of the most beautiful cities in the world where you stay in the finest hotels and dine only at 5-star restaurants? Plus, when you're not in Paris or on Capri you don't even have to go to the office, you simply work at home in your pajamas.<BR/> Sound too wonderful to be true? Well, it surely is for most of us but not for Michael Tonello who tells us all about it in the highly amusing, can't-believe-he-really-did-this memoir Bringing Home The Birkin. As the affluent know a Birkin is a handbag made by Hermes with retail prices in five figures and more than difficult to obtain. Evidently the two-year waiting list makes a Birkin even more desirable.<BR/> Tonello had already seen a good bit of the world as a beautician who traveled about prettying up the already pretty for commercial photo shoots. He was happy with his current home but had grown weary of the unfriendly Cape Cod winters. A recent assignment has taken him to Barcelona where he found he loved the people, the food, the sunny clime. When an opportunity to take a job there surprisingly appeared, he packed his designer duds and moved to Spain.<BR/> His euphoria was short lived because almost as soon as he had unpacked his job vanished just as quickly as it had appeared. What to do, how to make ends meet and keep wine at table? On an impulse he listed one of his Hermes scarves on eBay and it sold - at a nice price. Further, he was the recipient of emails from those who had lost out on his auction and wanted to know if he had more. Tonello soon realized that these were "serious collectors," and that there might be a great deal of money involved. <BR/> As he writes, "I didn't let my ignorance get in the way of my avarice. I intimated that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Well, I've always been a strong believer in the power of positive thinking - I really wanted it to be the tip of the iceberg."<BR/> For Tonello wanting made it so. It wasn't a great leap from scurrying around, finding and buying older patterns of Hermes scarves for his burgeoning list of clients to buying and reselling (at a healthy profit) the extravagantly priced, impossible to get Birkins. How could he possibly climb to the top of the daunting two-year waiting list? Where would he find the funds to purchase these more than pricey handbags?<BR/> He is one dauntless, determined fellow and his story is a carousel of chuckles, costly cuisine, and luxurious lodgings. Michael Tonello really brought home the Birkins and lives to tell his fascinating story while still enjoying Spain where, as he puts it "excuses to celebrate include getting out of bed in the morning and the ability to breathe for long periods of time."<BR/> This reader doesn't need an excuse to celebrate the refreshing honesty, wiles, and wit found in this memoir .<BR/><BR/> - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2015

    TELL ME

    TELL ME

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Fantastic Book

    Very entertaining for a mindless read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Monday

    Read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Birkin? Anytim

    adorable and super funny

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    very cute

    its a enjoyable easy read when you are looking for something lite. i had no idea how crazy some women are about these handbags. the lengths the author goes to in order to satisfy the hot market in these bags. i enjoyed it.

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  • Posted April 24, 2009

    Leave your high expectations at the door

    Against my better judgment, I read the book. I should have gone with my first instinct.

    Any reader who is looking to learn how the author cracked a code with Hermes should look elsewhere. He hasn't.

    Despite the issue in the book concerning Hermes, the rest of the book may be interesting to readers as the author weaves a story about his life growing up and the love interest he acquires as he travels the globe in search of excitement and glamour. The writing is light-hearted and at times tongue in cheek.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2008

    Inside look at high-end retail

    A fun, easy read. I understand the appeal of Hermes, but find it sad that people will spend outrageous amounts of money for a scarf or accessory emboldened with the Hermes name. The author frolics through the world of elite retail with much humor and writes an interesting account of personal shopping for the very well-heeled.

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