Hermès Birkin

When it comes to Iconic handbags, the Hermès Birkin is the ultimate status symbol. It is known for its superior craftsmanship and an insane price tag. Standard models start around US$7,000. Hermès is known to be extremely secretive about the number of Birkin bags that it manufactures each year, limiting the supply to the elite and fashionable.

Hermès Birkin - Iconic Handbag, its jistory design and effects on culture

Hermès Birkin | PC: Quartz

Attribute of this artificial scarcity, the brand seems to have been successful in maintaining the bag’s reputation as one of the world’s most coveted yet unattainable luxury item. Also some do claim that the wait list is just gossip but then I havent bought a Birkin yet! I wouldn’t be averse to it though, since Birkin bags are actually considered a better investment than stocks or gold, since they increase in value by 14.2 percent on an average each year.

Picture Courtesy: Up Close & Stylish


Jane Birkin upon whom the bag has been named, is a British born singer, actress and a French style icon of her time. According to Hermès, the idea for the brand’s Birkin bag came from an accidental airplane encounter in 1981 between the stylish Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas, the late chief executive of Hermès. The well-known story involves Ms. Birkin spilling the contents of a date book everywhere, inspiring the executive to create a bag that would be suitable for jet-setting women with a lot to carry. Their airplane collaboration resulted in what we now know as the iconic Birkin bag!

Hermès Birkin - Iconic Handbag, its jistory design and effects on culture

Jane Birkin and her Birkin bag


Hermès is now best known for selling the Birkin, among other luxury purses and scarves, but was originally recognized for its finely crafted horse harnesses and carriages. The Parisian shop first opened in 1837, but didn’t enter the luxury market until 1922. Their first celebrity endorsed bag was the “Sac à dépêches,” which was later renamed the “Kelly” bag after being widely photographed on the arm of Princess Grace of Monaco. Both the Kelly and Birkin designs are supposedly based off of an Hermès bag from 1892 called the “Haut à Courroies,” which was inspired by horse feed and saddle bags. It’s interesting how some iconic handbags have inspiration drawn from Equestrian Accessories.

Hermès Birkin - Iconic Handbag, its history design and effects on culture 2

Hermès-Artisan-Tools | PC: The Purse Blog

Hermès Birkin - Iconic Handbag, its history design and effects on culture 2

Hermès Birkin bags in a French workshop | PC: Mehdi Fedouach Getty Images

The Birkin’s rarity and high value have made it highly prone to counterfeiting and there have been several cases of arrests in recent years. Some collectors & Hermès execs say that they live by the rule of never saying why a bag is fake, as counterfeiters will use it to improve production. Due to the same reason I have not been able to find the details of its construction anywhere!

Hermès Birkin - Iconic Handbag, its history design and effects on culture

PC Portero | Each Birkin bag is handmade in France by one single artisan, and can take up to 18 hours to complete, from start to finish. They come in sizes 25, 30, 35, and 40, and two travel sizes, 50, and 55, as measured in centimeters, and in a variety of leathers and skins.

Not an overnight success

Although the Birkin bag was first introduced in 1984, it didn’t take off until the mid-to-late 1990s, at the dawn of the so-called “It-Bag” era. This iconic bag became forever known as the ultimate status symbol when it was used as a plot-point in a 2001 episode of Sex and the City, where Samantha Jones uses one of her celebrity client’s names  to skip the waiting list for the coveted bag. After the episode aired, it is claimed that the Birkin’s actual waiting list tripled, which shows the cultural impact of the show.  The Birkin played a pivotal role in making Hermès the fashion house it is today. It opened Hermès up to new markets and customers, and also changed the typical Hermès client.


Today, Birkin bags can be found on the arms of many celebrities. It has also become increasingly popular for stylish celebs to customize it, like Lady Gaga.

Kim Kardashian made headlines when she was gifted a Birkin that had been hand-painted by her infant daughter North West.

Other stars, including Kate Moss and Posh Spice, who have even repurposed the luxury totes as diaper bags & JLo as her gym bag. I dont see to many Indians with it, except maybe Neeta Ambani and Deepika Padukone. This only goes out to say that the Birkin after all is a very well designed utilitarian accessory.

Closing Thoughts:

Personally I am not a fan of that shape and avoid bags with that stiff base but I absolutely understand why some ladies would love it, not just for its iconic fashion accessory status but for its utilitarian and practical design. Also note to self: be nice to co-passengers on your journey, one might name an iconic bag after you!

What is your opinion of the Birkin? Let me know in the comments.


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