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.
Its prices range from £7,500 to £100,000 (US$11,550 to US$150,000). 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 (25cm) may be considered a handbag or purse.
In 1981, 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 later 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 an August 2015 New York Times article and its accompanying style feature video by Bill Cunningham a moulded rubber bag bearing the same style seemed to have become ubiquitous in Manhattan, along with examples of the authentic ones. A significantly lower cost was reported for the rubber totes, being comparable to typical leather handbags.
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 previously, was saltwater crocodile skin and bags with smaller scales cost more than those with larger scales. In 2015, however, Jane Birkin asked Hermès to stop using her name for the crocodile version due to ethical concerns. 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-centimeters, with travelling bags of 50- and 55-centimeters. 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 to prevent tarnishing. Hardware is updated regularly to maintain the quality available in the industry at time of production. The metal lock may be covered with leather as a custom option. 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 by expert artisans. The company's signature saddle stitching, developed in the 1800s, is another distinctive feature.
Each bag is hand-sewn, buffed, painted, and polished, taking several days to finish. An average bag is created in 48 hours. Leathers are obtained from different tanners in France, resulting in varying smells and textures. Because of varying individual skills, other details of the bags may not match with other bags. The company justifies the cost of the Birkin bag, compared to other bags, based on the meticulous craftsmanship and scarcity.
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 are 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. 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. Web articles explaining how to buy a Birkin are very popular.
- "Martha's Moneyed Bag Carries Too Much Baggage". The Washington Post. 22 January 2004. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bag lady: Victoria Beckham's 100-Strong Birkin Bag Collection That's Worth £1.5m". The Daily Mail (UK). 20 May 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "In the Bag". Time magazine. 17 April 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- Nikas, Joanna, and Cunningham, Bill, Bill Cunningham | It Bag, The New York Times, 21 August 2015
- "Hermes v. Hermes". The Washington Post. 28 June 2006. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- Catherine Bennett, Jane Birkin demands Hermès remove her name from crocodile bag, Financial Times, 29 June 2015
- "Can a Birkin bag Get You Special Treatment?". USA Today. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "How to Bag a Birkin". The Daily Mail (UK). 28 April 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bag Man". The 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. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21635758-think-global-act-artisan-beauty-and-beasts The Economist 13. December 2014, Accessed on 13. December 2014
- "Hermes". New York Magazine. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bagging a Birkin". Planet Money. 25 December 2015. NPR.
- Bringing Home the Birkin, by Michael Tonello, 2008, Harper
- "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
- "How to buy a Birkin". POPxo.com. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Lowrey, Annie (2 June 2015). "At Lunch With the Author Who Introduced the Upper East Side 'Wife Bonus'". New Yorker.
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