19 July 2023 |

The Birkin Bag

By Ari Murray

In honor of Jane Birkin (an absolutely legend), who sadly passed away this week, I would like to tell you the story of the Birkin Bag.

The Hermès Birkin Bag. 

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On a fated flight 40 years ago, a fashion icon (Jane Birkin) and a Hermès brand executive had an idea.

A bag. Big enough for the everyday. Expensive enough to not be for everyone.

Jane Birkin was an actress, singer, and style ICON who was known for carrying a small wicker basket EVERYWHERE instead of using a bag or purse.

And in 1984, Jane found herself struggling to jam that unrealistic basket into the overhead bin on a flight from Paris to London.

When she finally sat down, Jane turned to the stranger next to her and mentioned that it was impossible to find a weekend bag that was stylish AND convenient.

The stranger smiled and introduced himself as Jean-Louis Dumas, the Executive Chairman of Hermès!!

Dumas challenged Jane to help him design a better bag to meet her needs.

So, they both spent the rest of the flight sketching some handbag designs on the back of a sick bag.

After A YEAR of waiting, Jane received a call from Dumas – Hermès had created the first Birkin bag.

The bag itself was square-shaped with pockets (thank GOD) that could hold a baby bottle and other accessories for a new mom like Jane.

And, as crazy as it sounds, Birkin bag sales were pretty mediocre for the first several years after its release.

But by the early 2000s, Birkin bags were selling so quickly that the waiting list was over 6 YEARS long.

Many wealthy (and loud) Hermès clients thought the waiting list was unfair.

So, Hermès actually dropped it in 2010 and replaced it with something completely different.

Obviously, Hermès was never going to produce enough bags to meet demand.

So, they created an allocation system. Each store would receive a # of bags and the Hermès Sales Associates would become the gatekeepers.

The Associates would decide who was worthy of a Birkin bag.

With this system, there’s no guaranteed way to buy a Birkin bag. You have to be INVITED*.

To secure the invite, you need:

– Multiple purchases of other Hermès items
– Relationships with Hermès Sales Associates
– A LOT of luck

*Unless, of course, you’re famous or filthy rich

Basically, Hermès stores will reward their most loyal customers with their best products.

But if you have the privilege… the HONOR of getting the invite, you have no choice over the size, the color, or the price of the bag.

If they offer you ANYTHING you say, “Yes please”

The secrecy only makes the bags more attractive.

The total # of Birkin bags made each year is a secret (estimated to be ~200K total in the wild)

Pricing is a secret (a bag can be anywhere between $12K and $300K)

No two bags are alike. The bag you buy will be one of a kind.

Of course this is ALL on purpose!

Because everything about the Birkin is shrouded in mystery, the bag is more of an urban legend than a consumer product.

You can never be 100% sure that the Birkin bag is actually real…

All I can say is, seeing is believing.

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RIP Jane Birkin. <3