There’s two types of Birkin Bag. One is hung pristinley off of the forearm, placed delicately on tabletops, and rubbed with a soft cloth when it picks up a spec of dust, whilst the other is strewn haphazardly over shoulders and bicycle handles, placed on grimy bus seats, and filled to the brim with random crap (as Jane Birkin herself intended). The only thing that’s consistently the same, no matter how you wear your Birkin, is the size of the price tag. But how did it actually come to cost that much?
The Birkin was originally designed by Jean-Louis Dumas, executive chairman of Hermès in the 1980s, after he came across a distressed Jane Birkin who’s wicker basket had spilled its contents all over the floor. The pair brainstormed a spacious (ludicrously capacious, if you will) yet classic bag which slowly conceptualised itself as the Hermès Birkin we recognise today, initially released in 1984 and named after Jane herself.
Back in 1984, when it was first released, the Birkin actually only cost an average of $2000; meaning the price has increased by 500% in the last 35 years, an increase of 14% per year. This initially low price was partially due to the fact that, upon its release, the bag didn’t immediately attract too much attention, mainly because another luxury brand (Chanel) was dominating the 1980s leather goods market.
However, in the 90s the Birkin met its heyday when the era of the It-Bag began, and celebrities started to endorse the bag’s practical yet luxurious qualities. The Birkin Bag quickly grew to notoriety, seen swung over the arms of icons including Kate Moss (who used hers as a nappy bag), Virgil Abloh, and Kim Kardashian, among others.
Nowadays, the Hermès Birkin starts at the bargain price of $8,500 and progresses up to around $2 million (re-sale), with the price varying based on a lot of different factors. The cost of the bag tends to change based on: size, with larger bags obviously costing more; material, from luxury leather to exotic materials; hardware, given some feature Swarovski crystals; location, with classic styles retailing for more in the US than Europe; and limited-edition status.
It’s not only the price that keeps the Birkin a sought after status symbol. Hermés has a few strategic tools which it uses to maintain an air of exclusivity and elusiveness around the bag, including: refusing to disclose the amount of Birkins which it aims to produce in a year, to maintain to the image of a lower supply than demand; strictly controlling exactly who can buy a Birkin, even if you can afford it; and limiting the amount of bags you can even own at one time.
Few bags have managed to compete with the Birkin since its rapid rise to fame; however, one which came close was actually a carbon (or digital) copy of the bag, created by NFT creator Mason Rothschild. In fact, the MetaBirkin created enough of a stir to cause a law-suit from Hermès itself, which in turn raised a slew of new questions about digital art and copyright laws that hadn’t yet been addressed.
The Birkin Bag has famously been called “a better investment than gold”, and personally, we think it looks a little better accessorising your outfit. Whether the opportunity to invest in an Hermès Birkin Bag will ever reveal itself remains the true dilemma – till then, second-hand is always an option.
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