Synonymous with French chicness, the Birkin bag has developed a coveted status. NIKI CHARALAMBOUS looks at a product following the death of the woman it was named after

In 1981, while boarding a flight from Paris to London, actress and singer Jane Birkin unintentionally dropped the contents of her bag, scattering everything from nappies and make-up to notebooks and documents down the plane’s aisle. As her neighbour assisted her in gathering her stuff, she had no idea that this accidental meeting would lead to the design of the most valuable bag of our time.

For decades, London-born Birkin was regarded as the pinnacle of French style. She had been a resident of France since the late 1960s, and was often distinguished by her casual, high-low look and large wicker basket, which accompanied her wherever she went.

After a seven-decade career, Birkin had been photographed countless times, both as a model and on the street, but she is perhaps best known for the iconic Hermès Birkin Bag, which has become the most desirable bag, renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship and jaw-dropping price, that continues to rise.

Hermès has successfully preserved the bag’s untouchable reputation, which has become the ultimate symbol of status, gaining worldwide adoration from A-listers such as Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and the Kardashians. In fact, the bag was used as a plot in one Sex and the City episode, with Samantha Jones skipping the five-year waiting list to obtain the coveted Birkin bag.

fashion jane birkin and her wicker basket

Jane Birkin and her wicker basket

What Jane Birkin didn’t realise after her minor mishap on her London-bound flight was that the man seated next to her was Jean-Louis Dumas, the executive chairman of Hermès, who questioned Birkin about her unusual bag choice.

Birkin discussed how she was unable to find a suitable bag for her everyday needs as a young mother, and how the lack of a capacious and conventional bag that could carry everything and anything was a source of frustration for her.

After a prolonged debate and a few scribbled sketches on an airsickness bag, the Birkin bag was conceived: a large and comfy purse that would store the model’s personal possessions, including nappies and other baby supplies.

Although the Birkin bag had its debut in 1984, it was not an instant success. It was not until the late 1990s that the bag became known as a fashionable, exclusive status symbol. The bag became even more popular after featuring in programmes like Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls, when demand for it surged.

From the signature orange packaging to the extensive waiting lists, there is undeniably a growing demand for the bag, which is made of high-quality materials that are then dyed in a variety of colours and feature palladium or gold hardware that complement the item wonderfully.

It is essential to take into account that Birkin bags are created by a single designer who will assemble the bag from start to finish using a procedure that requires extraordinary attention and precision that takes a long time to complete correctly.

fashion jennifer lopez with her birkin bag

Jennifer Lopez with her Birkin bag

While waiting lists were common in the 1990s and early 2000s, it is now very easy to walk into a Hermès store and purchase one. However, the popular French fashion chain knows how to maintain the Birkin’s exclusivity and rarity by limiting the number of bags in stock, thereby maintaining its reputation as one of the world’s most elusive luxury items.

The timeless Birkin bag will set you back anywhere from two thousand to half a million dollars and is now considered a better investment than gold. At an auction, values might jump even further depending on condition, colour, and size.

The famed and influential Jane Birkin died in July at the age of 76, leaving behind a legacy synonymous with French chicness. Although it has been reported that Hermès paid Birkin a modest sum in royalties each year in exchange for the use of her name, she donated this money to multiple nonprofit organisations, demonstrating once again that her large bags serve more than one purpose.