The Origins of the Hermès Birkin Bag

The year is 1983, and English actress and singer Jane Birkin is found sheepishly scrambling on the floors of an aeroplane aisle.
She had just attempted to store her weekend straw bag in the overhead compartment, when the entirety of her belongings showered down over her, and coincidentally over Jean-Louis Dumas, who was sat immediately next to her.

The French businessman and billionaire Jean-Louis Robert Frédéric Dumas was born in 1938, and acted as chairman as well as the creative artistic director of the Hermès group from 1978 to 2006, where he was credited with turning Hermès into the global luxury super brand that it is today.

One can only imagine it must have been with blushing embarrassment that Birkin explained how finding a weekend bag that safely stored all of her belongings, and still looked and felt chic and fashionable was more than difficult. And so, she used straw bags for travel for the time being.

It was the actress on that flight and that precise encounter with Jane Birkin that inspired Dumas to create the handbag that was to be named after the it-girl of the early 80s. And so, the Hermès Birkin bag was born.

It was said that Jane herself only ever owned one bag at a time – used it and abused it until it fell apart, before moving on to the next. And so until now, she allegedly owned only six Hermès Birkin bags in her lifetime.

"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."
Jane famously said about the handbag.

Like all Hermès accessories, the Birkin bag is handmade in France using the company's signature saddle stitching. It comes in a variety of skins and materials, which include calf leather, lizard, ostrich, as well as the more exotic and thus expensive, saltwater crocodile. Regardless of the exterior, all Birkin bags are lined with goat-skin, unless a special edition, usually in the same colour way as the outside of the bag.

The Birkin bag comes in a ranges of sizes, starting with the smallest bag at only 25cm and moving through to its much larger sibling which is 40cm wide. Travelling bags within the Birkin family come at 50cm and 55cm, and are often seen carried by stylish men.

Over the years the Hermès Birkin bag has turned into the most iconic status symbol of all times, featured in magazines, on celebrities and royalty, in films and television shows as the holy grail of fashion. Samantha Jones was placed on a five-year waiting list for a Birkin bag during the episode ‘Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’ in Sex and the City. She was so incredibly desperate to procure the famous bag that she uses her PR connections, pretending that the bag is for her celebrity client Lucy Liu. When Lucy inevitably finds out she promptly fires Samantha and keeps the Hermès Birkin bag for herself.

Today, whilst finding a Birkin in store is still as rare as gold dust, the Birkin bag is more accessible through the resale market than ever before. Luxury ecommerce platforms like ourselves offer both brand new and vintage pieces at incredible prices. We know this is an investment, so urge those with a Birkin bag on their wishlist to visit our boutique on South Molton Street, where you can feel the Birkin's magic in real life.

And so in the words of Jane Birkin;
“There’s no fun in a bag if it’s not kicked around so that it looks as if the cat’s been sitting on it - and it usually has. The cat may even be in it!”

Shop all our Birkins, here.