Just close your eyes and imagine. You've managed to save $10,000 and it's safely put away. You get a call from your local Hermès store to say that you're officially off the waitlist. The Birkin bag you've been patiently awaiting is in store and you're able to finally purchase it. If you're already a proud owner of a Birkin, I'm sure you remember this experience like it was yesterday. Happiness, excitement and accomplishment were just several feelings you must have had. Ah... to go through it all again.
Once upon a time, Jamie Chua had that feeling for the first time when she bought her Blue Jean Birkin bag. Now, it's an experience she's all too familiar with, some would even say a little too familiar with, and with good reason given the fact she owns more than 200 Birkins. Yes. 200 - you read that correctly. Not only does the 44 year old socialite have the largest handbag collection in the world, her staggering Birkin collection is worth an estimated $1.6 million alone.
It all started when Chua worked as an airline stewardess and met her then-husband Nurdian Cuaca, an Indonesian multi-millionaire, during a flight. After being together for 15 years and two children later, the two eventually divorced due to "unreasonable behaviour." Chua demanded and won $332,000 a month in alimony. Eventually, the divorce was settled out of court in 2011 after Chua froze her ex-husbands assets and received an unknown amount of money and properties.
With a massive following of 835k on Instagram, the socialite flaunts her impressive lifestyle and often poses in her 600 square foot, finger protected wardrobe that cost $120,000 to build. Her collection includes several Birkin and Kelly bags crafted in exotic leathers, but the most impressive remains her Himalaya Crocodile Birkins and Kelly. Chua expresses that they're "the top holy grail bags" if she had to pick her favourites. Which definitely doesn't come as a surprise considering the Himalaya Birkin has actually been listed as the "Holy Grail of Handbags" and the Himalaya Kelly is considered to be the rarest handbag in the world. For some price perspective, Christies sold the same Himalaya Diamond Birkin 30 in Chua's collection in a Hong Kong auction for $383,522. No big deal.
Chua's love affair with Hermès started over 15 years ago. Despite being the ultimate wealth symbol, Chua claims her obsession with the brand runs much deeper than just status. "For me, it wasn't about what it symbolized but truly how user-friendly Hermès bags were," explained Chua in an interview. Given how large her collection is, it's hard to believe that Chua believes in quality over quantity, but au contraîre. "I appreciate good craftsmanship - everything I spend my money on I love to keep for a long, long time. I have runway pieces from 27 years ago that still look brand new! I just love all things beautiful."
In addition to handbags, Chua love for shoes is just as strong. Claiming that shoes are her weakness, her collection consists of more than 300 pairs that cost $2000 on average for each. The most expensive pair of shoes she owns are a pair of Christian Louboutin Strass heels that retail for approximately $4600.
From handbags, to shoes, to vintage Dolce and Gabbana bustiers, Gianni Versace Elizabethan jackets and $36,000 jewel encrusted ball gowns, Jamie Chua's list of luxury items could go on forever. Oh...what wouldn't we give for the ability to trade lives.