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