The Birkin is, undoubtedly, the world’s most coveted, highly prized purse. It’s more than just a handbag, it’s a fashion statement, a status symbol, and an acknowledgment of wealth that comes with a $12,000 and up price tag. If you’re looking to buy a crocodile Birkin, you can except to spend six digits.
Salute Magazine is taking a look back at the birth and history of the Birkin, before it held the importance it does today.
In 1983, Hermès’ chief executive Jean-Louis Damus was seated next to French style icon, Jane Birkin on an airplane. The story has it that as Birkin tried to get her straw bag into the overhead compartment, she dropped it on the floor and its contents spilled everywhere. Birkin expressed to Damus her frustration with struggling to find the perfect leather weekend bag. From there, the rest is quite literally history.
The following year, Damus created the Hermes Birkin bag for her and other jetsetting, glamorous women like her. Each purse is handmade in France using the brand’s signature saddle stitching which was originally developed in the 1800’s.
Hermès justifies the $12,000-$15,000 cost stating that each bag takes several days to complete and, while most other bags are made by machines, everything from the stitching, painting, and polishing is performed by hand.
The Birkin bag however, didn’t find immediate success. During the 1980’s Chanel had taken over the luxury handbag market, so it wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that the Birkin became popular.
Today, almost thirty-four years after its launch, the Birkin is a symbol of one’s wealth and social status. Women dream of owning the high-end purse and perhaps, they have good financial reason. The bag has been proven to hold and increase its worth more than any other handbag.
Time Magazine called the Birkin a better investment than gold writing, “The Birkin bag outpaced the price of gold in the last 35 years— a time period chosen to reflect the date when Birkin bags were first produced in 1981. They say that the annual return on a Birkin was 14.2%, compared to gold’s -1.5%.”
One of the factors that make Birkins such coveted bags are the inability to get one. There are month long waiting lists and even then, you aren’t promised to be able to get your hands on the luxurious leather tote.
Having the money to by the purse is only half the battle, actually finding and obtaining one is a whole other story. This sense of mystery and challenge is a huge part of what makes a Birkin so sought after and desired.