The Birkin bag is a personal accessory of luggage or a tote by Hermès that is handmade in leather and named after actress and singer Jane Birkin. The bag is currently in fashion as a symbol of wealth due to its high price and use by celebrities. Birkins are the most popular bag with handbag collectors, and Victoria Beckham owns over 100 of them.
Its prices range from US$11,900 to $300,000. Costs escalate according to the type of leather and if exotic skins were used. The bags are distributed to Hermès boutiques on unpredictable schedules and in limited quantities, creating artificial scarcity and exclusivity. Small versions (25 cm) may be considered a handbag or purse.
In 1983, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was seated next to Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. She had just placed her straw travelling bag in the overhead compartment for her seat, but the contents fell to the deck, leaving her to scramble to replace them. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked.
In 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her, based on a 1982 design. She used the bag initially, but changed her mind because she was carrying too many things in it: “What’s the use of having a second one?” she said laughingly. “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." Nevertheless, since that time, the bag has become a status symbol.
In July 2015, however, Birkin asked Hermès to stop using her name for the crocodile version due to ethical concerns, as PETA alleged crocodile farms supplying the hide to Hermès for the manufacture of the bags crammed their animals into barren concrete pits. "At just one year old, alligators are shot with a captive-bolt gun or crudely cut into while they're still conscious and able to feel pain," PETA said. Birkin is quoted as having asked Hermes "to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place".
Birkin bags are sold in a range of sizes. Each one may be made to order with different customer-chosen hides, colour, and hardware fixtures. There are other individual options, such as diamond-encrusting.
- The bag also comes in a variety of hides such as calf leather, lizard, and ostrich. Among the most expensive used to be saltwater crocodile skin and bags with smaller scales cost more than those with larger scales. Each bag is lined with goat-skin, the colour of the interior matching the exterior. Prices for the Birkin bag depend on type of skin, the colour, and hardware fixtures.
- Sizes range from 25-, 30-, 35-, to 40-centimetres, with travelling bags of 50- and 55-centimetres. It also comes in a variety of colours such as black, brown, golden tan, navy blue, olive green, orange, pink, powder blue, red, and white.
- The bag has a lock and keys. The keys are enclosed in a leather lanyard known as a clochette, carried by looping it through a handle. The bag is locked by closing the top flaps over buckle loops, wrapping the buckle straps, or closing the lock on the front hardware. Locks and keys are number-coded. Early locks only bore one number on the bottom of the lock. In more recent years, Hermès has added a second number under the Hermes stamp of the lock. The numbers for locks may be the same for hundreds of locks, as they are batch numbers in which the locks were made.
- The metallic hardware (the lock, keys, buckle hardware, and base studs) are plated with gold or palladium. Detailing with diamonds is another custom option.
- Hermès offers a "spa treatment" – a reconditioning for heavily used bags.
- A "Shooting Star" Birkin has a metallic image resembling a shooting star, stamped adjacent to the "Hermès, Paris Made in France" stamp, that is in gold or silver to match the hardware and embossing. Rarely, the stamp is blind or colourless, if the bag is made of one or two leathers onto which no metallic stamping is used. Sometimes, Birkins or other Hermès bags may be made by independent artisans for "personal use", but only once a year. Every bag bears the stamp of the artisan who made the bag. These identifications vary widely, but are not different for every bag made. Finding stamps of more than one artisan on a bag occurs because the stamp is not a serial reference. Fonts and the order of stamping may vary, depending on the artisans.
- The Birkin bag may be distinguished from the similar Hermès Kelly handbag by the number of its handles. The single-handle handbag is the Kelly, but the Birkin has two handles.
The bags are handmade in France using the company's signature saddle stitching, developed in the 1800s. Each bag is hand-sewn, buffed, painted, and polished, taking several days to finish. Leathers are obtained from different tanners in France, resulting in varying smells and textures. The company justifies the cost of the Birkin bag, compared to other bags, claiming the degree of craftsmanship involved.
According to a 2014 estimate, Hermès produced 70,000 Birkin bags that year. The bag is highly coveted and, for several years, was reputed to have a waiting list of up to six years. The rarity of these bags is purportedly designed to increase demand by collectors.
As a result of the strong demand, the Birkin bag has a high resale value in many countries, especially in Asia, and to such an extent that the bag is considered by some people as an instrument of investment. One 2016 study found that Birkin bags had average annual returns of 14.2% between 1980 and 2015, significantly beating the S&P 500 Index. In April 2010, Hermès announced that the waiting list would no longer exist, implying that it is potentially available to all.
The Philippine Star reported in March 2013, that a very high-end, 30-cm Shiny Rouge H Porosus Crocodile Birkin with 18K gold fittings and encrusted with diamonds fetched US$203,150 at an auction in Dallas, Texas. A 30-inch matte white Himalaya niloticus crocodile Birkin with 18-carat white gold and hardware bearing 245 diamonds was sold at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong for HK$2.94 million (US$377,261), creating a new record for the most expensive handbag in the world. A similar one had been sold by Christie's in spring 2016 for a then-world-record price of HK$2.33 million (US$300,000).
- "Martha's Moneyed Bag Carries Too Much Baggage". The Washington Post. 22 January 2004. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- Rupert Neate (1970-01-01). "What am I bid? Prices go through the roof at Christie's handbag auction | Fashion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
- Becker, Doreen (2016). Color Trends and Selection for Product Design: Every Color Sells A Story. William Andrew. p. 42. ISBN 9780323394062.
- "In the Bag". Time. 17 April 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Home page". RunwayRiot.
- Catherine Bennett, Jane Birkin demands Hermès remove her name from crocodile bag, Financial Times, 29 June 2015
- "Fashion victims: Jane Birkin asks Hermes to change 'her' handbag's name, citing cruelty to crocodiles". South China Morning Post. 28 July 2015.
- Mondesert, Anne-Laure (28 July 2015). "Jane Birkin asks Hermes to take name off crocodile handbag", Agence-France Presse.
- Brannigan, Maura (28 July 2015). "JANE BIRKIN WANTS HER NAME OFF THE BIRKIN BAG". Fashionista. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- "Hermes v. Hermes". The Washington Post. 28 June 2006. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Can a Birkin bag Get You Special Treatment?". USA Today. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "How to Bag a Birkin". Daily Mail. UK. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bag Man". Boston Globe. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Box up the Birkin Hermes Craftsman Stitches Up Lavish Leather Goods in Calgary". The Calgary Herald. 16 October 2010. Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Beauty and the beasts". The Economist. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "Hermes". New York. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bagging a Birkin". Planet Money. 25 December 2015. NPR.
- Bringing Home the Birkin, by Michael Tonello, 2008, Harper
- "Hermes Birkin Values Research Study". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Why a $223,000 Hermes Birkin bag might actually be a good investment". Fortune. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Hermes Birkin Values Research Study". Baghunter. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- Au, Desiree (3 June 2016). "Who Would Pay $300,000 for a Handbag?". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- "The Wait (List) Is Over: Now Anyone With $5,000 Can Get Their Hands On A Birkin". Glamour. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- Tetta Ortiz Matera (20 March 2013). "Crocodile Skin 101", The Philippine Star
- "Handbag auctioned for world record HK$2.94m in Hong Kong". South China Morning Post.
- Lowrey, Annie (2 June 2015). "At Lunch With the Author Who Introduced the Upper East Side 'Wife Bonus'". The New Yorker.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Birkin Bags.|