The Hermès Birkin bag is one of the most iconic bags in history and is often considered as work of art because of its timeless design, bold choices of materials, and the top-level craftsmanship required to produce one of it. But back in the 1980s, when the Birkin bag was first conceived and made to public, it was not an immediate sensation. So, how did the Birkin bag become the status symbol that it is now?
It’s in the Name
The Birkin bag was inspired by 1960s actress, singer, and style icon, Jane Birkin. Her infamous song with his then-partner Serge Gainsbourg along with some of her films catapulted her to fame in France despite not being fluent in French at the time.
In 1981, on an Air France flight from Paris to London, Birkin and former Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas met at a chance encounter. As Birkin put her bag in the overhead compartment, the contents of her bag spilled out, including her Hermès diary. That little accident started a conversation between the two about what the ideal bag would be like. Birkin ended up drawing the look and specifications for the handbag on the airline sick bag. What she was asking was a big enough bag that can fit a lot of things, but not too big like a suitcase, and something that is both fashionable and versatile, elegant and sporty. A few years later, the legendary Birkin bag was born.
When it first came out, the popularity of the Birkin bag is slow-rising. But throughout the years, it has gained quite a reputation because of its supreme quality. Hermès perfected its construction, selecting premium materials and having elite artisans craft each piece for more or less than 48 hours. Every craftsman responsible for creating a Birkin bag leaves a mark on the bag to identify who created a certain piece.
Scarcity of the Bags
The Birkin bag is known for its crazy long wait list. There are only a few thousands in circulation and each piece are made to be limited edition. Most of the Birkin bags are sold in auction houses for a staggering amount of money rather than directly bought at Hermès boutiques. Because of this scarcity, the Birkin bag has created an aura of exclusivity and mystery. It has become almost mythical and only a special group of people can possess it.
Collector’s Item and Special Investment
The demand for Birkin bags keeps rising every year and so does its value. Hermès is also scaling back its production which means that every Birkin bag that you may encounter in the coming years will be more and more rare and expensive. This makes Birkin bags not just a coveted collector’s item but also a special investment.
Everybody Wants to . . . Own a Birkin Bag
In popular culture, celebrities are not shy or afraid to declare their love for Birkin bags, not just as an investment, but for its artistic value, its quality, its exclusivity, and even for its functional use. Not a day goes by without a celebrity or an influential person being photographed with a Birkin bag in hand, perpetuating the idea of a Birkin’s high desirability. For Hermès, there is little need to do a full-blast marketing campaign as the Birkin bag has created a mythos for itself. Ironically, Jane Birkin, the namesake of the bag, has been vocal in dismissing it as just a “trivial piece of heavy luggage.” This does not affect the image of the Birkin bag, of course, and the its legend will continue in the generations to come.