As to why they settled on a Birkin for their first entry into high fashion, aside from the obvious wordplay, Lukas Bentel, 28, one of MSCHF’s creative directors, explained: “Birkin bags are like a cultural meme, a symbol for a certain kind of wealth.” By “mashing it into a really accessible object,” they wanted to force people to perhaps question that symbolism. Plus, the wordplay really is kind of funny.
MSCHF was founded in 2016, and is normally based in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, though employees are now scattered around the boroughs. It does drops the second and fourth Mondays of every month, ranging from abstract ideas like paying people to criticize companies it deems evil (Amazon, Facebook, Tesla) to concrete products like the Birkinstocks. And it has developed something of a rabid following on social media as well as among a handful of celebrities like Drake. Who, as it happens, is so obsessed with Birkins that he has multiple shelves devoted to the bags, which he collects for his future wife.
The Birkin, named for the actress Jane Birkin, was created by Hermès in 1984 and famously holds its value; one of the most expensive bags ever sold at auction was a white Diamond Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Birkin 30 with 18-karat white gold and diamond hardware, which went for more than $370,000 at Christie’s in Hong Kong in 2017. They are made by hand, take an artisan a minimum of 18 hours to make, and demand generally exceeds supply, meaning there are waiting lists in Hermès boutiques for the bags.
MSCHF, however, did not bother with a list. Instead, the group bought four bags via resale sites for about $122,500, as well as some cheaper copies, which were used as practice to figure out how to take the bags apart so they could be remade as sandals. At least two leather workshops in Brooklyn turned the team down when contacted about the project, as they were so horrified by the idea of cutting up a Birkin.
“We know some people are going to react with, ‘What is wrong with you people?’” Mr. Greenberg said. “But we’re OK being hated. We just don’t want apathy.”