The Origin of the Hermes Birkin Bag
The Birkin bag is the ultimate fashion status symbol, guaranteed to turn heads and invite awe-inspired gazes everywhere it goes. However, few people really know the truth: the Birkin's legendary status today comes from rather humble beginnings and a chance encounter.
Pictured: British actress and style icon, Jane Birkin.
The story of Hermes Birkin starts in 1980. The ‘it-girl’ of the time was British actress and style icon Jane Birkin. By some stroke of luck - or, perhaps fate - Jane Birkin found herself sitting next to Hermès chief executive, Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane.
Jane Birkin recalled the following events from a 2012 interview from the Hermès show: as she was reaching to place her bag, a straw-woven basket, into the airplane's luggage compartment, it fell and spilled its contents all over the floor leaving Jane scrambling to collect everything scattered in the airplane aisle. Sitting next to her, Jean-Louis Dumas wondered why such a famous personality would use a straw basket for jet setting, and he offered to design Jane a custom bag to fit her high-profile needs.
Jane Birkin drew out her conception on an airplane sickness bag, and requested from Dumas a bag specifically with larger dimensions, pockets suitable to carry all her essentials, and a closure mechanism to ensure the contents were safe and secure. After four years of collaboration, the Birkin bag as we know it today was born in 1984. The ultra famous actress once said she is most comfortable in worn jeans, Converse sneakers and a men’s shirt. Beauty, comfort and functionality: when you look at a Birkin bag today, it is almost as if Dumas infused Jane’s character into the handbag itself.
Pictured: three examples of ‘basic’ leather Birkins, which are very hot on the resale market due to their everyday usability. Few women who own crocodile Birkins are willing to carry them everyday, but these such examples in Togo, Epsom or Calf leather are highly desirable for this very reason. Black, brown and etoupe are very popular color choices for Birkins on the resale market.
Featuring top quality construction, the Hermès Birkin sits on sturdy, metal ‘feet’ known as Clou, making it incredibly durable and wear-resistant. The signature lock and clochette closure and twin handles reflect Jane’s desire for functionality, ensuring the Hermès Birkin can keep its contents safe and secured for travel. Today, the Birkin comes in many sizes, material choices and colors, with some ultra-rare material Birkins like the Himalayan crocodile fetching upwards of $300,000 at auction.
Pictured: Hermes Birkin classic orange crocodile bag.
The Birkin’s popularity took off in the 1990s, and today the demand for them is so high that there is no longer a waiting list. Hermes will not sell a Birkin to just anyone who can afford it. In fact, to get one new from Hermes will require celebrity status, solid reputation or a client relationship with a boutique. Victoria Beckham, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian are known to have collections of Hermes Birkin and Kelly handbags. Even then, Hermes will not make one to order - you would be lucky enough to be offered a bag in specific material and color.
Pictured: No other designer can infuse this much delicious color into leather as well as Hermes can. This is one of the many reasons Hermes sits at the top of the luxury handbag market. While these Birkins may not be as liquid on the resale market due to their eccentric color, they maintain a high value for their ultimate statement-making ability.
The best place to acquire an Hermes Birkin is on the resale market, where, depending on the bag’s condition, material and color, the price could be even higher than retail! Birkins are appreciating assets: they outperform gold, real estate and stocks over time. However, the insatiable demand for these gorgeous bags has made them a prime target for counterfeiters. If you want to learn how to spot a fake Birkin, be sure to check out our Hermes Authenticity Guide.
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