Paris Fashion Week unveils major must-haves

PARIS Even the world's richest women beg, steal or borrow to lay their hands on the elusive handbag made by Hermes, which officially has a waiting list of two to three years.

No doubt they will be salivating over the new creations the French fashion house unveiled on Saturday in its autumn-winter ready-to-wear show, held in a tent beside the Eiffel Tower.

They included the So Kelly, an oblong variation on the classic Kelly bag, and the Gypsy, a unisex shoulder bag modeled by Hermes designer Jean Paul Gaultier himself.

Models with glossy manes paraded in belted fringed shawls and knee-high suede boots that gave them the superior carriage of high-class thoroughbreds.

"That Birkin on your arm tells other women your place in society," said Michael Tonello, who recounts his adventures buying and selling Birkin bags in his forthcoming memoir "Bringing Home the Birkin" (William Morrow).

"It sort of suggests to them that you are successful, that you have money, that you are someone, or else Hermes wouldn't be selling you this bag," he added.

Celebrities that have adopted the handbag, named after British actress Jane Birkin, include Eva Longoria and Katie Holmes. Victoria Beckham is said to own 100.

Though prices start at more than $8,000, hundreds more women languish on the waiting list. So when Tonello found a way of bypassing the wait, he rocketed to the top of every socialite's Rolodex.

"I began to feel like I was a drug dealer," he told The Associated Press. "You know, there are people that will do almost anything to get one of these bags."

Tonello spent nearly a decade traveling the world snapping up Birkins - he says he once purchased 140 in three months - and reselling them on eBay for a tidy profit. He said he stopped because the activity was taking over his life.

Officials at Hermes declined to comment on the book, due to be published in the United States in April, and on the thriving secondary market for its high-end goods.

Women looking for an immediate fix can always turn to Kenzo, which showed a Japanese-themed collection featuring some of the most appealing accessories seen in Paris this season.

These included a rectangular pink enameled purse dangling off a thick strap and fish scale-effect green suede ankle boots.

Kenzo designer Antonio Marras drew inspiration from Sayoko Yamaguchi, a model and Kenzo muse who died last year, for his stunning collection of silk tunics with graphic calligraphy patterns and kimono-style dresses featuring delicate blossom prints.

British designer John Galliano turned his fashion show into a full-blown happening, conjuring a fictional Hollywood production of "Xanadu".

Mingling on a spectacular Oriental pleasure dome set were actresses Lucy Liu and Mary-Kate Olsen and singers Kanye West and Rihanna, alongside costumed extras including a Marilyn Monroe look-alike.

Gold lame harem trousers and a fruity palette of burnt orange, raspberry and plum added to the Eastern vibe.


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