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Born in the ‘80s, the Hermès Birkin bag has since risen to become the quintessential fashion accessory. Katya Foreman tracks its history

HighLifeChannel July 18, 2023

When it comes to handbag hierarchy, the Hermès Birkin – the ultimate status symbol in the arm-candy stakes – continues to rule the roost, as the prized possession of the deep-pocketed few. Victoria Beckham is rumoured to own around 100, costing about a cool £1.5m ($2m).

Among other celebrities with Birkins to burn, Kim Kardashian has been chastised for using one as a gym bag, ditto Kate Moss – as a nappy bag. In 2012, a $100,000 (£76,388) crocodile-skin Birkin was reportedly set on fire (then bisected by chainsaw) by Francesca Eastwood, daughter of Clint, in a so-called art project conceived by her photographer boyfriend, Tyler Shields – an act that reportedly led to death threats. (When the smoke had cleared, it was claimed the bag was, in fact, imitation. Even more heinous.)

Created in 1984, the iconic bag boasts as its namesake muse Paris-based British actress Jane Birkin, who has just died at the age of 76 . Its existence was a happy accident, borne out of an exchange between Birkin and former Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on an Air France flight from Paris to London in the early ’80s. Birkin, who had been upgraded, ended up sitting next to the executive; when the contents spilled out of her bag, Dumas suggested she needed one with pockets, and this sparked a conversation about her ideal accessory. As she recounted to The Telegraph in 2022, the actress ended up doodling her specifications for “a handbag that is bigger than the Kelly but smaller than Serge [Gainsbourg]’s suitcase” on a sick bag. The rest is handbag history.


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