The Story of the Birkin Bag

I love the old photos of  singer and actress, Jane Birkin, and I shared one in a past blog post (read it here).
Jane was known for carrying a straw basket instead of the traditional purse during her heyday in the late 1970‘s..and when I say, “straw basket,” I do mean, “basket.”  Think, Yogi Bear’s, “pick-a-nic” basket.  See what I mean…

Well, as the story goes, she apparently was seated next to the Hermès chief executive, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight from Paris to London. As she placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, the contents fell to the floor, leaving her scrambling. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. Therefore, in 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her, based on an 1892 design. Thus, the “Birkin Bag” was born.

The bags are handmade in France by expert artisans. An average bag is created in 48 hours. Leathers are obtained from different tanners in France, resulting in varying smells and textures. Because of the individual craftsmanship, other details of the bags may not all match. The company justifies the cost of the Birkin bag (from $9,000 to $150,000) compared to other bags, based on the meticulous craftsmanship and scarcity.  Although the Birkin bag is free of logos, it is one of the most recognized bags in the fashion industry and by the public.
It is highly coveted and, for several years, was known for having a waiting list of up to 6 years – the longest wait for any bag in history. As a result of the strong demand, the Birkin bag has a high reselling value.  The bags are distributed to Hermès boutiques on unpredictable schedules and in limited quantities, creating scarcity and, intended or unintended, exclusivity.
Jane herself used the bag, then later changed her mind, due to the fact that she was carrying too many things in it: “What’s the use of having a second one?” she laughs. “You only need one and that busts your arm; they’re bloody heavy. I’m going to have to have an operation for tendonitis in the shoulder.”  I guess she returned to toting her original signature bag, the picnic basket.  Nevertheless, the bag has since become an icon.
If a famous handbag maker created a bag for you, what would it look like and how would it function?

One Response

  1. I love large Black fine leather handbags. because as a lawyer I wear a lot of black. My bags needs zips for security. Not large ugly zips but fine gold coloured ones. I like my bags to be compartmentalized to keep different documents and IT equipment safe. I do not like a shoulder strap. Two hard wearing short handles should suffice. Keep it simple but with fine red leather lining – oozes ‘class’.

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