Birkin: The One & Only

There exists a saying that "accidents are not accidental", often used in situations that feel like they were destined to take place. For the story of something as legendary as the Hermès Birkin, it couldn’t be more fitting. Like many modern icons of fashion, the beginnings of the bag originated in the twentieth century. In 1984, actress and singer Jane Birkin was flying to Paris. During the flight, the contents of her bag fell out, and Jane began to pack everything back. The man in the seat next to her noted that bags should be more practical and have pockets. That man turned out to be Jean-Louis Dumas, chairman of the board of the house of Hermès. As they talked, the actress noted that the Hermès brand didn’t produce such bags, and, as the story goes, the first sketch of the Birkin was drawn mid-flight. This is one of the most striking examples of when something iconic and unique is invented so quickly and simply that it almost defies belief.
The company eventually produced the bag, with all the finer details meticulously perfected before its presentation to the actress. According to one theory, the fashion house took a pre-existing design and simply added the finishing touches. The true story of the legendary accessory’s creation is known, perhaps, only to its participants. Karl Lagerfeld, commenting on the authenticity of events from the life of Coco Chanel, once said: “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. There is a result. We see it and know about it.” So here we are, looking at a colossal success that is yet to be surpassed by any luxury item. Whether it was invented on a plane or at a home workshop doesn’t matter — that’s for the meticulous fashion historians to decide.

But the Birkin didn’t achieve its cult status overnight. The bag’s rise to world fame began in the 1990s; it was actively worn by Victoria Beckham, who herself was a rising star at that time. Having acquired a taste for Hermès bags, the former Spice Girl was increasingly seen wearing a Birkin. We should also not forget the consumer boom that came at the turn of the millennium, which gave rise to the concept of very expensive bags, which fashionistas were ready to sell their souls to get their hands on. All this played into the hands of the Hermès brand, which quickly realized that it had its very own "golden fleece" product.
So what's Birkin's secret? First, the bag is very comfortable despite its considerable weight — it comes in at one kilogram even while empty. Second, its style and design are incredibly practical and suit a variety of looks. The only exception, perhaps, is evening outings, but the bag is not meant for black-tie style dinners. Third, its performance. Luxury goods are famous for the fact that they are assembled exclusively by hand, according to strictly-defined laws, down to the number of stitches and the special density of leather. It’s also worth noting one very important point: the brand intentionally controls the number of copies produced. In Birkin's case, it’s not demand that creates supply, but vice versa. The house deliberately creates a buzz around the bag. Everyone knows the stories of when you had to wait a few years to get your hands on the item you desire. Each bag has its own serial number and code, which allows you to check its authenticity. This leads us to the problem of fakes. The bag’s growth in popularity means that demand for it on the black market is also growing. Who hasn’t seen an internet ad for the Birkin that states: "the bag is sewn at the same factory, from the same leather, only on the night shift." In truth, fakes are often so skillfully crafted that it can be very difficult to tell the difference.

There are many stories about how these replicas have been sold in boutiques or replaced by Machiavellian sales consultants guided by greed for profit. Shoppers who are sick of buying fake bags go for resale. This is a genuine and, apparently, the most viable alternative in today's world. Farfetch, for example, has an entire section dedicated to “second-hand” bags, as does Oskelly. If you go through respected vintage luxury stores, you can also find the Birkin. As a rule, their price is lower than the official one, but it’s still not exactly affordable. As for the Birkin’s price in boutiques, that can increase exponentially, because everything depends on the bag’s size and material. Initially, the model was released in black calfskin. Now it’s not uncommon to have an exotic one, and the colour schemes have long gone through all sorts of Pantone options. But exotic skin also had its issues. In 2015, the fashion house was accused of crocodile leather suppliers mistreating reptiles. The brand was able to prove the opposite, and Jane Birkin, having learned about the accusation, demanded to stop naming the bag after her. But after the company gave evidence of the opposite she withdrew her demand. By the way, the brand annually pays the actress for using her name, which she transfers to charity.

Years later, the Birkin phenomenon doesn’t cease to exist. At this point in time, there is not a single bag other than Birkin that can be called the best investment. A model from Hermes can always be a profitable sale, since it doesn’t drop in price, but rather gains. Who would have thought that a meeting on an aeroplane would lead to this very craze and become a desire of thousands of women who put this bag on the highest fashion pedestal to this day?
Fashion Luxury goods