The Birkin Bag is considered the creme-de-la-creme of accessories. From being on the arm of almost every Kardashian to becoming a sought-after collectable item, this bag is the epitome of rich and exclusive. But how did the Birkin Bag come into existence? Why has this bag, out of all the others, become the most iconic in fashion history?
Let’s take a look at how the Birkin Bag has stood the test of time, so let’s go back to the start…
The Flight of Destiny
When Jane Birkin receives a surprise upgrade on her Air France flight, she finds herself to be seated next to the Chief Executive of Hermès, Jean-Louise Dumas. It’s 1981, and movie star Jane Birkin’s on-screen prowess and french girl lifestyle are becoming an aesthetic.
Birkin carries all of her personal belongings in a wicker basket when out and about; which a very French bag choice. In lieu of a handbag or purse, this wicker basket contains all of the necessary things for Jane Birkin’s day-to-day life. And was, apparently, the perfect size.
Of course, this meant that her basket was her carry-on for her Air France flight.
Dumas, watching Birkin struggle with her basket in the overhead luggage compartment, had a lightbulb moment. For the rest of the flight, Jane Birkin and Jean-Louise Dumas designed a new Hermès handbag, named the Birkin Bag, which was big enough to fit all of the belongings any French girl would need but still maintain the style and elegance of Hermès.
And so, The Birkin Bag was born!
Why is the Birkin Bag so special compared to other bags? Dumas created a legendary accessory that was large enough to actually hold all of a lady’s necessities. As well as size, this bag was made in various colours and materials, including the infamous ostrich, lizard or crocodile.
Making only a limited amount of each bag, usually only around 500, meant that the Birkin became a celebrity collectable, an enigma even among the rich and famous.
The most famous Birkin is the Himalaya Birkin, which can come with or without diamonds. The Diamond Himalaya 30 is considered the most expensive bag sold at auction, getting a whopping $440 000 USD in 2022.
Taking The Birkin To New Heights
Throughout the years, The Birkin Bag has become heralded as the ultimate accessory- everybody had to have one! The bag took off as an exclusive commodity through clever advertising as rare and limited, as well as only being able to purchase a Birkin by invitation. It is now not who owns a Birkin Bag, but how many?
The officially crowned queen of the Birkin Bags, Singaporean influencer and socialite Jamie Chua has over 200 bags! Her collection ranges from the more common (but still extremely rare!) Birkin’s, to her most prized possession the Crocodile Himalaya Diamond Birkin.
Her closet is closely-guarded with fingerprint protection, and is considered bigger than your average NYC apartment at 700sq.
The pink obsessed Youtuber is known for his controversial takes, infamous involvement in youtube drama, and, of course, his enormous fashion collection. In his pink-panelled vault, Star is almost on par with Jamie Chua in his lavish bag collection.
His best Birkin Bag story? Losing luggage for three days after a flight from Scotland to LAX airport that contained an ultra-rare violet Birkin Bag. Of course, the hashtag #PrayForTheBirkin went viral!
While the Kardashian/Jenner sisters are known for their materiality, the size of their Birkin Bag collections is still astounding!
From rarer, more expensive skins to the more common Birkins, these sisters have hundreds of these iconic bags. Kim K has a custom-painted (by contemporary artist George Condo) Birkin 40, while Kylie Jenner has a Birkin in every colour.
Special mention to early 2000’s queens Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen who used and abused their Birkin Bags to the point of no return. Honestly, if you’re paying that much for an accessory, might as well get your money’s worth!
Name And Shame
Looking to the more controversial side of Birkin Bag history, Jane Birkin actually asked to have her name removed from the bag in 2015. A PETA report exposed the brutal treatment of crocodiles and alligators in breeding facilities used to make Birkin Bags. Unsurprisingly, Jane Birkin asked Hermès to rename the bag altogether.
Taking Jane Birkin’s concerns into consideration, as well as being ‘shocked by the images recently broadcast’, Hermès made the effort to investigate the Texas and Zimbabwe facilities in question.
While Hermès does not own either establishment but is supplied by them. They now take care to visit all of their suppliers each month to ensure ethical policies are upheld.
The Fashion Currency
Now the question is, how do you get one? The Birkin Bag, and any Hermès accessory really, are notoriously exclusive. There’s no way to order one or go in store to purchase one, with the rich and famous (even royalty!) in fierce competition to get their hands on one.
There are, however, two main pathways to getting a Birkin Bag, both of which are expensive and often time-consuming.
The first pathway involves visiting one of the Hermès boutiques. You cannot buy a Birkin straight off the shelf, and they don’t even have them on display! However, if the SA on-site deems you worthy, and they have a Birkin in stock, you will be taken to a private room. The SA will bring out a single (or if you’re lucky two or three) bag for your pick and purchase.
It seems pretty simple, but getting a Birkin Bag from a Hermès boutique is the most difficult route. You have to dress well, have extensive knowledge of Hermès and already have a significant purchase history in all areas of Hermès. If you love the thrill of a hunt, head to a Hermès boutique to start your Birkin Bag journey.
The second pathway is often considered much easier than the first. The best way to get a Birkin Bag, and especially a Birkin Bag in the colour and material you want, is through a reputable Hermès dealer. With extensive and professional knowledge of Hermès, a dealer acquires authentic new and pre-owned Hermès Birkins, Kellys and other bags. They do not discriminate based on income, celebrity status, or purchasing history, meaning anyone can buy one- providing you’ve got the money of course!
The Biggest and Best?
The biggest and best Hermès dealer? Madison Avenue Couture in NYC.
The Birkin Bag is now a world-wide collectable for the exclusive and elite. The enigma of such an iconic accessory lies in its influence. The Birkin Bag has defined the status quo for over 40 years, an enigma among the age of fast fashion and lightning trend cycles. Celebrities, executives, millionaires and kings and queens all dream for the chance to have one on their arm.
As for everyone else? The Birkin may seem like one of those fashion pieces that will always be out of reach, but just like the rest of the world, one can dream.
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