In the Bag

2 minute read
Betsy Kroll

“It” bags may come and go, but an Hermès Birkin lasts forever. Any woman worth her Manolos knows that.

The handbag was named for haute-hippie actress Jane Birkin after a chance meeting with Hermès chairman Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane in 1984. As the story goes, Birkin was rummaging through her basket-weave purse when it fell apart. Dumas assisted her in collecting the dropped items, they struck up a conversation, and—voilà!—shortly thereafter Dumas had the Birkin bag created as a token of friendship.

Derived from the Haut à Courroies, a style Hermès created in about 1900 to carry a saddle, the Birkin is almost completely customizable, so the $7,000 starting price can escalate to well past $100,000. Almost as famous as the bag is the waiting list the company tries not to let exceed five years. Each bag requires a single, flawless skin, rendering production wholly susceptible to the throes of Mother Nature. If there’s a drought in New Zealand, as there was a few years ago, the availability of ostrich decreases drastically. It typically takes six months to two years to find an exotic skin for a bag. After that, the entirely by-hand construction of a Birkin requires 72 hours to two weeks to complete, limiting weekly output to two or three bags.

But apparently, it’s well worth the wait.

1 Black crocodile Birkin handbag with 169.67 g of white gold and 10.86 carats of diamonds ($148,000)

2 Actress-singer Jane Birkin, for whom the bag was named

3 Martha Stewart proudly carries her Birkin on her way to court

4 Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of her television show, Sex and the City

5 Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums

6 Victoria Beckham arrives at the Los Angeles airport

7 Lindsay Lohan shopping in Paris

8 Janet Jackson at a party in L.A.

9 Tennis star Anna Kournikova out and about in Hollywood

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