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Style Discussion: The Birkin Bag – Hype or Hot?

The Hermes Birkin bag is a study in flawless marketing for me.

First, it comes with a cute story:

The first of these incredible handbags was manufactured in the early 80′s for model, singer, and it-girl Jane Birkin. After being seated next to Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London, Jane expressed her disdain for her messy datebook (only to receive one with a pocket in the back cover) and her quest to find the perfect weekend bag.

Intrigued, Dumas asked her to describe exactly what size and features she would want in such a bag, and shortly thereafter she received that bag with a personal note. (Source)

Second, Jane Birkin (!!) as the icon for this bag:

It’s ironic for me that the It Girl.. could not care less about the Birkin bag itself and the status symbol it seems to be for so many women.

PARIS (Reuters) – Actress and singer Jane Birkin has asked Hermes to remove her name from one of the luxury goods maker’s best-selling bags due to what she called “cruelusli” crocodile farming and slaughtering practices. “I have asked Hermes to rename the Birkin Croco until they adopt better practices that meet international standards for the production of this bag,” Birkin said in a statement from her agent. Birkin said she had signed actor Joaquin Phoenix’s Mercy For Animals petition to “shed exotic skins from your wardrobe” in protest against the “millions of reptiles slaughtered each year and turned into shoes, handbags, belts and other accessories”.Nobody at Hermes was immediately available for comment. Birkin agreed to lend her name to the bag after sharing a flight with the charismatic late head of Hermes, Jean-Louis Dumas, in the 1980s. The crocodile Birkin and the Kelly bag, named after actress Grace Kelly, are among the most sought-after luxury goods. The starting retail price is more than 20,000 euros ($22,096), partly because shops routinely run out of them. Customers can obtain one either by putting their name on a waiting list or by paying hefty fees to specialised buyers who hunt for the bags on their behalf. A fuchsia Hermes crocodile Birkin bag with a diamond-studded clap and lock set a record as the most expensive handbag ever sold at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last month, fetching $222,000. (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Susan Thomas) via

A photo posted by Fanpage (@janebirkindaily) on

Her favourite bag before, was this straw basket to the right of her leg:

A photo posted by Fanpage (@janebirkindaily) on

She was quoted in Vogue as saying once:

One rainy afternoon in Paris, just before hopping in a taxi, Birkin rang up Vogue with her thoughts on her sartorial legacy. “A Birkin bag is a very good rain hat; just put everything else in a plastic bag,” is only the first. 


She sold her last (of the 4 Birkins) for a great cause in 2011.

She was even blatantly saying that the bag was not a big deal at all:

On the popularity of the Birkin—both real and fake: “It’s very nice that everyone’s got one or wants one. I keep saying to Hermès to make it out of plastic or, even more fun, make it out of cardboard. Then it wouldn’t be so heavy. But if people want to go for the real thing, fine. If they go for copies, that’s fine too. I really don’t think it matters.”
On handing them down: “My daughter Lou does not have one. Personally, I think it would be a horrible thing to have a Birkin bag from your mother.”


From all of her interviews and notes, she could not care less. It’s a bag to her. Period.

It’s not a status symbol, she wouldn’t base her whole life on it and she is very minimalist in the sense that she has no attachment to such things.

Third, it is a status symbol, as or more expensive as a car:

It’s over 18 hours of work, made by hand, and only 250 are done a year by artisans in France.

They start from $12,000 and go up to $223,000. (Source)

…does the Emperor have no clothes?

Fourth, I personally can’t see the point of the bag other than it being a purse:

Then again I am not into brand name bags, status bags, It Bags or any sort of purse that is very well known or seen on every arm.

I guess if I had billions to burn, I might buy one, but it looks a bit impractical to me with the flap across the front that has to go around the handles, and the flopping buckle bit in the front….

I’m more of a quick Longchamp Pliage, throw-it-on-my-shoulder-and-go sort of person.

It is the most used bag in my entire bag wardrobe, but I still enjoy using the other ones.

I know that women use it as a status symbol that they got the “saltwater crocodile skin” one.. or whatever else, but I really feel like the Emperor Has No Clothes at this point.

Do you want one? Crave one? Can’t see the point? Discuss!


  • Janelle

    I wasn’t interested in the Birkin until I started doing research on it.. eventually I fell in love and I bought one pre-loved at a very nice discount. I prefer the pre-owned route as far as any luxury goods go. It was made in 2003 and it still looks amazing. It’s made of a very sturdy leather and it’s dark brown almost black… The material and color choice was important to me… hopefully because of it the bag will hold up longer than other high maintenance colors/leathers. I’ve used it at least 30 outings, as I’ve tried to minimize cost per wear. 😉 I’m a handbag lover and bags are my thing… in the future I could sell it or keep it depending on the possible changes in my lifestyle but I don’t regret the purchase.

  • Sarah

    Although I do own Kelly bags, never cared for a birkin and there are no crocodiles in my wardrobe. It’s an ecologically unsound practice and nipped it in the bud years ago. Also I can’t imagine anything more ostentatious than a bright pink crocodile freakin birkin with diamonds. I mean really- it sounds horrific.

  • e

    I love this bag and hope to own one day. I do have to say that I like Kelly bag more than Birkin because the style is bit more under the radar and classic. Who am I kidding, I want them both.

  • Tania

    First of all I adore Jane Birkin’s and her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg’s personal style. I’m a straight haired brunette who prefers classic casual as they do (raw cut jeans, ballet flats & Ts). I still enjoy and appreciate a beautiful bag but my thinking has drastically changed in recent years. I used to buy “investment” bags in the past (go ahead & sarcastically chuckle at investment) but never at the level of Birkin because it’s beyond my price range. The thought was I’ll have these bags forever. Now that I’m older and have a few back pain issues, I just don’t care for the large designer bags with tons of details (& heavy hardware). I’m also not so much into the same style as I used to be, I’m plainer & simpler now in my 40s, less edgy rocker as I was in my 20s/30s. All those heavy Balenciagas, Alexander Wangs and Pradas are being sold off one by one and my closet is getting much roomier. I now sport mid range or vintage but well made mini bags. I do have a few totes for the occasions that I need to carry a bit more but it wasn’t the most expensive ones, it was the lighter ones (no name with very little hardware & lightweight leather or better nylon like Longchamp). So, my point is there is no forever, for me anyway. Our bodies change, our tastes change and so do our lifestyles. One could have a Birkin bag forever but does that make it worth it? Not to me. It is a beautiful bag and I wouldn’t turn it down as a gift (the simpler leather, not the exotic) but it’s not something I desire per se. And I’m not impressed by anyone’s bag ever. There are a gazillion chicks out there with uberexpensive bags on their arms and it says nothing really about what kind of person they are or their accomplishments.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I am reading and nodding as you’re saying all of this because my style has changed too. I’m more into neturals, layers, more Olsen Twins these days than I was a while ago where things were super bright and punchy…

      Same with bags. I am starting to like more structured bags when all I had in the past were floppy ones!

  • Cassie

    I like the idea of having a sturdy, well made leather tote that has a flap over the top, but the buckle on the front seems kinda finicky. If I was carrying one it would probably be left open and hanging a lot. I’m not put off by the style, but I certainly wouldn’t pay full price for one. If I came across one that was reasonably maintained in a consignment shop that didn’t know what it was and priced it accordingly… I’d probably go for it. The namesake for the bag has more style than the brand that makes it does though.

  • Revanche

    Well, you know me. Give me lightweight and sturdy and I’ll be your buddy.

    I had a friend who owned similar status items because the materials were exceptionally high quality and now 40 years later, even after routine professional use, they still look almost like the day they were made. Now that she’s out of the business where that was the norm, they’re put aside because her natural style is much more laidback, but she scoffs at status symbol seekers who want to buy them from her because she refuses to enable that sort of thing. It cracks me up that she’s holding on to them partly because she doesn’t think anyone who wants them is deserving (ie: they are stuck up).

  • Kathy

    No bag is worth the cost of a Birkin. Or a Louis Vuiton for that matter. I do carry Coach, Michael Kors, Boden, Modalu, and even Land’s End. The serviceability of the bag is worth more to me that the status. I don’t have a daughter to whom I could hand these down to and my daughter-in-law has a completely different style than me, so I’ll use these until they look battered and then pitch.

  • suzi

    It’s a gorgeous bag, no doubt. Things like this are made for those who don’t know what to do with their money. If someone were offering to give the bag to me, OR, help a family in need for a year, I’d choose the later. I’m a sensible girl. 😉

  • Lisa

    I think it’s an absolutely beautiful bag, no doubt about it. However, I don’t see the point in owning one.

  • raluca

    My husband was really shocked when I first told him about the prices of expensive/exclusive bags. He could not believe it, I had to google it and show it to him and then he said they were ugly. We don’t see the attraction of paying absurd prices for bags, when there are so many normal options with quite similar quality.

    I have an artisan-made leather bag from the small town of Inca in Mallorca, Spain. They make leather goods there since the beginning of time. It’s full leather. It cost me 25 euros(I bargained it down from 60 euros) and it’s good enough. I wont spend 1000 times or 10000 times more for an incremental increase of quality and a nice logo.

  • Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents

    Hype. Good bag but better marketing made it a status symbol. Likely not worth the price tag.

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