A Brief History of The Birkin Bag — The Holy Grail Handbag

History of the Birkin Bag

The history of the Birkin bag is one filled with legend and happenstance. By the time the Birkin bag had come along, Hermes was already established as a house of luxury, catering to their elite clients’ needs. The year was 1983. Jean-Louis Dumas was CEO of Hermes at the time had a chance encounter with It-Girl Jane Birkin. Keep reading to find out more!

See: A Brief History of the Kelly Bag

Who is Jane Birkin?

History of Birkin Bag
Birkin and Gainsbourg

Jane Birkin is an English actress, singer and model. A true icon from the 1970s-1980s. Birkin is also famous for being involved in a 10-year relationship with Serge Gainsbourg, a famous French singer/writer/director/poet and all in all, regarded as one of the most popular French figures in pop culture. The two have a daughter, actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The History of the Birkin Bag

Handbag legend says that in 1983, a serendipitous encounter occurred during a flight from Paris to London, where Dumas met Birkin. As she placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment, its contents spilled in front of Dumas and Birkin had to scramble to collect them. In true French fashion, Dumas made a joke suggesting Birkin needed a handbag with pockets. The actress went on to explain how hard it was to find a large, secure and stylish bag she liked. And so Dumas, along with feedback from Birkin, drew the very first sketches of the Birkin on an airplane sickness bag. Such a humble start to such a luxurious accessory!

One year later, in 1984, the Birkin bag made its debut. Its roomy interior made it a great jet-set option, and the lock meant it could be securely carried closed during travel.  Jane Birkin was gifted a Birkin, which she individualized with stickers.  She sold at for more than $162,000 at auction in 2011 to support earthquake relief efforts in Japan.

Jane Birkin, Hermes



The original Birkin was 35cm in size, but its style has not changed much since its debut.

Today, the Birkin comes in sizes 25cm, 30cm, 35cm and 40cm and in a variety of leathers and exotic skins.

Why the Birkin Bag is So Hot

The Birkin bag has been dubbed the Holy Grail of handbags. It rose to fame during the “It Bag” movement of the 1990s. A “Sex and the City” episode in 2001 featuring Samantha attempting to purchase a Birkin raised awareness of the bag’s exclusivity. The world suddenly was exposed to the fact that a Birkin was unlike any other bag. The Birkin continues to be a “status” bag, making its popularity greater than ever. Hermes only makes a limited amount of Birkin bags per year (and they’re tight-lipped about the specific number!) so they are only able to offer them to their most exclusive VIP customers, who have already spent a significant amount of money in the boutique on a plethora of non-Birkin items.

With demand exceeding supply, especially if a person wants a specific size or color Birkin bag, many Birkin seekers opt to purchase their bags from the secondary market, from trusted sellers like Madison Avenue Couture.

Who is Team Birkin?

Some celebrities are Team Birkin and some are Team Kelly. Here are some celebs who love their Birkin bags!

Celebs and Birkin bagsHeidi Klum, Molly Sims and Jennifer Lopez
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nicky Hilton and Padma Lakshmi
Lady Gaga (customized Birkin), Victoria Beckham and Sofia Vergara
The Jenners
The Kardashians

Whether you’re looking to purchase your first Birkin, or you’re an avid collector, at Madison Avenue Couture we know you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for. And if you don’t, email us and we will source it for you.

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