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This Hermès Birkin has 242 diamonds with a total of 9.84 carats.

ABC Sydney — According to a fashion insider, paying top dollar for bags like the one bought by Sydney student Christine Jiaxin Lee is an investment. Ms Lee, a chemical engineering student, is being pursued through the courts by Westpac after it accidentally gave her a bank overdraft of $4.6 million.

She spent thousands of dollars on luxury goods, including a Hermès Himalayan crocodile Birkin that retails for about $150,000.

The bag is made out of skin from a specially bred Nile crocodile whose skin is so pale it is almost albino.

The bag also has signature sailor stitching and a goatskin interior.

“This particular one is an investment bag,” collector and fashion designer Claudia Chan-Shaw told 702 ABC Sydney. “It’s considered the Holy Grail of collecting for this style of luxury handbag.”Ms Chan-Shaw said the Birkin bag was extremely rare and prospective buyers had to wait between two and six years before they could own one.

This Hermès Birkin has 242 diamonds with a total of 9.84 carats. Reuters: Mario Anzuoni
This Hermès Birkin has 242 diamonds with a total of 9.84 carats.
Reuters: Mario Anzuoni

“That makes them even more desirable,” she said. “They pop up on the secondary market; they pop up at auctions and you can actually pay more for an old one than a new one because people don’t actually want to wait.”

About $3.3 million is yet to be recovered from Ms Lee, raising the possibility that she may have sold some of the items she purchased from stores like Hermes, Dior, Chanel, Christian Louboutin and Bulgari.

Ms Chan-Shaw said the fact people would often pay just as much for a second-hand “super brand” item as they would a new one indicated that investment fashion pieces did hold their value. She cited Marilyn Monroe’s 1955 iconic white halter-neck dress which sold for $US4.6 million in 2011 as part of a collection from actress Debbie Reynolds.

But despite being a collector herself, Ms Chan-Shaw said the most expensive item of clothing she owned was a Jean Paul Gaultier dress or Thierry Mugler jacket worth $1,500.

“It’s crazy — would you spend $150,000 on a handbag or go invest it in property?” she said.

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