Move aside Hermes: Malaysia’s buzzing over Bijan

Bijan handbags are made from crocodile skin and kangaroo hide, and are for the most part custom-made.

PETALING JAYA: For upmarket foodies, the name Bijan may bring to mind the popular bar and restaurant on Jalan Ceylon in Kuala Lumpur, but the name will now be the talk of the town for a very different reason.

The police today revealed that a Bijan handbag was among 567 luxury bags seized by the authorities in the ongoing 1MDB probe.

The haul of handbags, which included names like Hermes and Chanel, had made headlines since the police raids last month. However, the single Bijan announced today stands out from the crowd of other luxury brands.

What is a Bijan, and what makes it so special?

The brand was founded by Iranian-born designer Bijan Pakzad in Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles in 1976, just three years after he migrated to the US from Tehran.

His boutique store for menswear has been described as “the most expensive” in the world, with its clients including US presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr, George Bush Jr and Barack Obama.

Other clients include former British prime minister Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as renowned designers like Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani, and A-list celebrities like Tom Cruise and Anthony Hopkins.

Bijan’s collections now go beyond menswear, and include handbags and perfumes for both men and women. In 2001, it was estimated that Bijan’s perfume sales alone stood at RM12.9 billion.

Bijan handbags are made from crocodile skin and kangaroo hide. They are for the most part custom-made, aside from those sold at Bijan boutiques. Even then, these are limited editions, with only a few put up on the market.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bijan boutiques are not shops which anyone can just walk into. Prospective clients need to make appointments, and the average spend per customer is US$100,000.

If there was any doubt about its clientele, a US$2 million Bugatti Veyron, a Fernando Botero artwork worth millions of ringgit, and a sign which reads “Welcome to Bijan, the world’s most expensive store” are clear reminders of its exclusivity.

The store continued to run independently after its founder Bijan passed away following a stroke in 2011. It has since been taken over by LVMH, the company which owns the Luis Vuitton and Hennessy brands.