COME ON BABY, LIGHT MY FIRE: Some people torched a Birkin, and the Internet Freaked Out

Oh Internet, must your response to everything be so trite and boring?
Publish date:
June 1, 2012
handbags, style, designer bags, fire, publicity stunt, purses

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. I own an Hermes bag. A sky blue Kelly. Yes it's real, no I didn't pay retail, I bought it used, but it was still really expensive. I’m a bag whore. Sorry in advance.

I bring this up because the Internet is ablaze right now with moral outrage over a ridiculous publicity stunt wherein photographer Tyler Shields and his girlfriend Francesca Eastwood (yes, Clint’s daughter) set a supposedly $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag on fire. The drama was staged as part of an E! reality show called "Mrs. Eastwood and Company," about Clint’s most recent wife, Dina, and Francesca, Dina’s stepdaughter. Oh, but first they hacked the Birkin bag to bits with a chainsaw. YAY!!!!!

In case you weren't aware, Tyler Shields is a Hollywood based photographer who has made a name for himself and pissed off the unwashed masses by shooting his celebrity friends in "shocking" poses:

The domestic violence people were mad about Heather Morris' black eye picture and the animal right activists were up in arms over Mischa deep-throating meat. Tyler’s images don’t spark any outrage in me.

Am I dead inside? I just find myself wondering if he shoots Nikon or Canon.

Suggestive pictures of girls gets people good and mad, but the desecration of luxury items is what really provokes people to violence on a whole other level.

I wrote a ridiculous post a few months ago here on XOJane about how I scribble all over the expensive handbags I have managed to purchase, and people responded to it as if I had sacrificed a baby.

I’m just an idiot, folks. I get bored of shit and want to fuck it up. Now British fashion mags think there’s a handbag-trashing trend, and that our very own lovely Cat Marnell and myself started it. (Full disclosure: I actually put that Balenciaga bag in the clothes washer because a cat I was babysitting pissed in it. The fact that it looked cooler after the fact was just a happy accident.)

Tyler posted shots of the Birkin aflame on his website, and people predictably began FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. Both Tyler and Francesca have been receiving death threats. Yawn. Death threats are so dated.

Tyler says the burning of the bag was "art," and that “Destruction is a beautiful version of freedom.” A lot of news outlets made a big deal out of discussing whether or not this was really art. The only problem with talking about art is that you end up talking to a bunch of artists, so let’s cut that out immediately. I am far more interested in talking about what exactly it was about the act that sparked so much hatred in people.

A random sampling of comments from Internet articles about Tyler and Francesca's bag-burning photo shoot leads us to predictable territory:


“Stupid , spoiled little rich kids! Nothing makes me more angry than waste of money. So many people could have eaten , or gotten medical care with the money it cost to buy that bag. I hope her Father slaps her silly....”

“who’s up for a future boycott of the show/all future articles on this spoiled brat? End her 15 minutes a few minutes early…”

"could have used a cheap Kmart bag. Instead, waste money that could have fed hundreds. Spoiled and clueless. Try working 4 REAL."

Now, I’m not sure where the hell Tyler Shields got the $100,000 to buy the Birkin bag in the first place, but the fact that people feel he doesn’t have the right to spend it as he pleases SLAYS me -- and the insinuation that there is a direct link between children starving and people buying handbags is laughable.

Once this bag was purchased, whether it was loved and carried every day or burned alive makes zero difference. That $100,000 was never going to be scattered to the starving residents of a third world country from a magical airplane piloted by H.R. Pufnstuf.

The inception of Mayor Mc Cheese, kids.

What about the saleswoman/man at Hermes who made the sale of the $100k Birkin? That’s a great commission that enables them to feed their family.

And what about the craftsmen at Hermes that have been trained for generations to make these bags by hand? Hermes craftsmen attend a special intensive leather working school, and must then train in house at Hermes for 15 months before beginning to make bags on their own. It takes 4 solid days to make a Birkin bag, and you don’t graduate to making the crocodile ones until you work there for 5 years. Those craftsmen are the true artists, are paid fair salaries, and the people who buy their work are stimulating the economy. Why does anyone care what happens to it after the fact? It's those people's business -- not ours.

My grandma Lola took me to Paris as a teen, (twice, sigh.) and we went to the Hermes boutique on the Rue du Fauburg Saint Honore. Our goal was to buy a "Twilly," which all the fashionable Parisian girls were wearing on their wrists at the time. I’m totally bringing the Twilly back. I just decided. It's a very useful accessory.

Put it on your purse, wrap it around your wrist, tie it in your hair...the possibilities are endless.

While in the store, I pointed to a crocodile bag that was in a glass box and asked if I could look closer at it. What a precocious kid I was! The saleswoman put on some white gloves before she pulled it out to show it to me. I had reverence for it, for sure, as it seemed unspoken that I was not to touch the bag, but it didn’t provoke bloodlust in me the way some handbags do. Yes, that is a pretty accurate description of how I feel about certain handbags.

There are some Internet reports cropping up saying the bag Tyler and Francesca lit on fire may have been a fake. I wouldn't be suprised, as Tyler said this about buying the bag: "Somebody brought me one in the trunk of a Bentley." A $100,000 (cash?) transaction took place from the trunk of a car? Totes legit, ya'll.

The bag in Tyler's pictures also looks awfully shiny, almost like patent leather. The Hermes crocodile bags I have seen in person are nowhere near that glossy. Plus, in the background of the videos I saw, there was no telltale Hermes packaging -- orange box, dust bag, etc. There are some telltale numbers stamped on the back of the straps of a real Hermes bag, using Hermes’ special numbering system -- but those straps are obstensibly ashes now. We'll never know, and Hermes is notoriously silent, so I doubt they will ever weigh in.

I still don't understand why people are so pissed about this. Why all the moral outrage? It seems to be centered on the idea of the haves and the have-nots. There will always be someone with more than you, that’s called life. When will we all collectively grow up and accept it?

What the hell is this Twitter? @IveyAlison