The most commonly recognized luxury handbag in the world is most certainly the Hermès Birkin.
The first of these incredible handbags was manufactured in the early 80’s for model, singer, and it-girl Jane Birkin. After being seated next to Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London, Jane expressed her disdain for her messy datebook (only to receive one with a pocket in the back cover) and her quest to find the perfect weekend bag. Intrigued, Dumas asked her to describe exactly what size and features she would want in such a bag, and shortly thereafter she received that bag with a personal note.
Since that day, the Birkin bag has become one of the most iconic accessories in modern fashion. With the price of one of these handbags ranging from $5,000 USD to over 6 figures, there is an infamous waiting list known to be up to 4 years. Hermès does not sell Birkin bags online or through any online retailers, but consignment shops and online auctions have been known to re-sell older styles.
In addition to the celebrity clientele known for owning the Birkin, its main allure is the work and craftsmanship that goes into manufacturing one of these intricate handbags. Hand-built by expertly trained craftsman, the production of one Birkin can take up to 48 hours of work, which is why the cost has remained so high. Despite the wide variety of skins used to create Birkin bags, the most exclusive being saltwater crocodile skin, the lining is most typically goatskin.
It has been reported that custom Birkin bags have been produced, but Hermès is known for discontinuing colors or leathers without notice. Special orders have been known to never arrive or arrive 1 – 2 years after their expected shipping date.
The hardware on a Birkin will not tarnish because it is typically plated with gold or other precious metals. In the past, special-order hardware has been created covered in leather and encrusted with diamonds. The specialty hardware is one of the many features of a Birkin that can determine the authenticity of a bag. Others are even stitching, craftsman’s marks and the interior leather zipper tag (it is parallel rather than perpendicular).
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.