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Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag Hardcover – April 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In a funny, whip-smart memoir sure to be a sensation among Vogue and W devotees, erstwhile hair and makeup artist Tonello (now a columnist for HuffingtonPost.com) chronicles a surprising (even to him!) trans-Atlantic move from Provincetown, R.I. to a city he'd fallen in love with on a short trip: Barcelona, where he knows no one and doesn't speak the language. Tonello's initial euphoria dissolves when his new job fails to materialize. To stay afloat, Tonello starts selling items on Ebay with startling results: his first, heart-racing success, a year-old $99 Polo scarf he sold for $430 to a Midwesterner ("I guess he really liked plaid") makes Tonello an instant believer in the resale capabilities of high-end luxury items. Thus his new trade, and his quest for the Birkin, the "it bag" of all time, famous for its impenetrable waiting list ("What do you mean the waiting list is closed? It's a waiting list. So I can't wait?"). After many failed attempts, Tonello plans a weekend drive to Madrid in search of the haute couture holy grail; the result is a both a hilarious raid on fashion's strongholds and a memoir that satisfies like a novel. Fashion die-hards, and many others, will be delighted from beginning to end.
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Lives there a (female) soul so uninformed that heart and head do not flutter at the word Birkin? This luxe handbag, lovingly crafted by the artisans of Hermès, is reportedly sporting at least a two-year waiting list for would-be purchasers until Tonello, eBay reseller and gadabout hair stylist and makeup artist, literally stumbles across a method of Birkin acquisition. In this shopaholic-like memoir, the author begins his across-the-world searches from a humble base in Provincetown, Massachusetts; acquiesces to a Barcelona gig; falls in love with the city and a man; and moves—permanently. With the promise of a real job dissolving in one phone call, Tonello resorts to selling his own considerable wardrobe—and a few first editions—on the Web. Buoyed by success, his focus soon lingers on Hermès scarves—and, eventually, on the prize bag. In search of crocodile treasures, he (and we) meets every character in and out of high-end retail land, from buyers Ellen and Sarah to petty thief Luc and bedecked and bedazzled designer Lakis Gavalas. Chuckleworthy, with a few personal and sorrowful reminders that life simply happens … so enjoy! --Barbara Jacobs
Top customer reviews
This book details that process, how he built up the business, his travels through many continents to get the bags and his ultimate decision to bag the Birkin business. Through all this he finds love, has a lot of laughs, negotiates a "hostage" situation and loses someone that means everything to him.
His writing is easy and fun to read. He is funny, descriptive (I felt like it was me on Capri) and thoroughly entertaining!
He is an awesome guy who seems to be thrown for a loop but always lands on his feet.
This book is about his adventure in "THE HOT PURSUIT OF THE WORLD'S MOST COVETED HANDBAG". Tonello writes about how he ends up in this world of Birkin handbags by accident. Stranded in Barcelona and with no job, he needed money to survive. Buying and reselling Hermes products on eBay (especially the Birkin crocodile bags) gave him this ticket and afforded him a posh lifestyle from the profit he made.
Tonello has acute business sense, even though his background was anything but. (He was a professional makeup artist.) His trips around the world in search of this coveted handbag was hilarious and a page-turner! His descriptions of Capri and Mykonos were spot-on. I've been to those places and agree they are indeed beautiful -- also Las Ramblas in Barcelona (where he lives with his partner Juan). The ending was fitting. I was very sorry when I reached the last page. This book was witty and fun to read because Tonello wrote from his heart. I hope he will write more.
First of, you do not have to be a slave to fashion to enjoy this book. The bottom line is Michael Tonello needed to find employment in a pinch and found a very fortuitous gold mine on ebay slagging designer items. By sheer luck by selling one Hermes scarf he uncovered an entire community of Hermes collectors that would do ANYTHING to get their hands on all things Hermes. Of course the scarves and knick-knacks were just the tip of the iceberg. Michael is literally forced into becoming an unwitting authority on all things Hermes and eventually learns "the Formula" for becoming the reigning king of Birkin buying while scads of others languish unnecessarily on a waiting list for 2-3 years for what is arguably a very nice hand bag, but not a particularly exciting bag as it is very conservative in its design.
Michael Tonello's writing is hilarious! While reading his adventures and his conniving and extraordinarily good luck in sating the crazed desires of Hermes collectors all in the name of making a paycheck I really felt like I was sitting right there with him having a drink and laughing at some of the best travel/retail stories. Seriously, I think Michael picked up some moves that were previously only taught to potential CIA, MI5, KGB or Mossad agents. I enjoyed this so much I'm forcing my mother and my friends to read it. And Michael, whatever your next entrepreneurial adventure is, I hope its as funny as this one and you can kick out another book on it.
Most recent customer reviews
A really fun read about all things Hermes and in particular, the fabled...Read more