The timeless

The timeless

The timeless Birkin bag

The release of the “Birkin 3-in-1” is coming soon… An opportunity to review this iconic Hermès model! A bag whose popularity has not changed over the years, quite the contrary.

by Ophelie Francq

To say that the existence of the “Birkin”, one of the most sought after luxury bags in the world, is due to the chance meeting of two individuals on a plane. In 1984, during a flight from Paris to London, the famous Jane Birkin spilled her handbag. She then complained to her neighbor. How to find a bag that is both elegant and adapted to her needs as a young mother? Fortunately, her neighbor was none other than Jean-Louis Dumas, the manager of Hermès (1978 – 2006). The genius immediately drew him THE tote bag to which he gave his name. With its rectangular shape, its flap to close it, its compartmentalized interior and its two rigid handles, this bag is perfect for everyday use!

A story that Catherine B, a great collector of Chanel and Hermès bags, would like to tell: “During this flight, Jane Birkin expressed the desire to have a more practical bag like the one Serge Gainsbourg had at the time: the Hermès “Haut à Courroies” 60 cm; a very large model. Hermès then simply reduced this bag to create the “Birkin”. To the very first model, they added a shoulder strap to make it more malleable! 

The collector has been the proud owner of this original Birkin since 2000. “This bag was first sold by Jane Birkin herself in 1995. The singer donated the proceeds to the association Aides, which fights against AIDS. After being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the original Birkin is currently in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Since then, the versions accumulate without ever going out of fashion. The bag is available in a dozen colors, 5 sizes and a variety of materials, from smooth leather to suede, crocodile, velvet, ostrich, etc. …. This winter, Hermès will present its latest model: “the Birkin 3-in-1”! A versatile trompe-l’oeil, it is a spacious bag with a canvas pouch that can be removed and carried alone.

If the “3-in-1” should be sold for 12,700 euros, a “Birkin” bag costs approximately 7,000 euros to buy. A high amount because it is a true work of art. Each bag is made by a single craftsman from start to finish, who will need between 18 and 25 hours of work.

An artist trained for several years by the House of Hermes, who, at the end of its realization, systematically signs the bag (by shaping it with a kind of punch!). And in principle, each piece is designed in leather factories, all of which have been located in France since the first one was created 182 years ago on rue Basse-du-Rempart in Paris.

A work of art whose value only increases with time. A 2017 study found that the price of these bags had increased by 500% over the past 35 years, an increase of 14% per year. This makes sense since “Birkin” bags are rare. A limited number are produced each year and to get it you have to be prepared to wait because the waiting list is long!

This desire to preserve the exclusivity of the bag has created a flourishing resale market. On December 1st, a Hermès sale took place at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris, organized by the auction house Gros & Delettrez, one of the market leaders in France for “Birkin” sales. Starting estimates for these bags vary between 6,000 and 22,000 euros depending on the model. Antoine Saulnier, their auctioneer, explains: “The “Birkin” is a world famous bag and often very well preserved by its owners. So it is a very safe product. The buyer profiles vary: from collectors to grandmothers who want to make a gift. And of all nationalities! With more and more of them in circulation around the world, Antoine Saulnier notes that: “If 20 years ago, the trend was for large formats, now it’s the smaller “Birkin” that are in demand.”

The Holy Grail? “The Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30,” sold for $380,000 in 2017 by an anonymous buyer in Hong Kong at a sale organized by Christie’s. A crocodile skin piece, featuring 18-karat white gold materials, over 200 diamonds. Only one or two bags are produced each year. And last year, it was Nabilla who got one!

If the “Birkin” remains trendy, nobody forgets its cousin the “Kelly”, perhaps more worn in the evening and less for travel. A model seen lately on the influencers Leia Sfeiz or Camille Charriere …