The history of Hermès Birkin

Hermès Birkin bags

The Birkin, launched in 1984, is one of the most sought after bags from Hermès. It is the happy result of a chance meeting on a plane between Jane Birkin and Jean Louis Dumas, the then head of Hermès. The famous English singer and actress was a young mother at the time and complained during the flight about the lack of room and inside pockets in her handbag. She wanted a big bag that was also good-looking and practical. So Jean-Louis Dumas designed a bag to meet the young woman’s needs and gave it her name.

One of the characteristics of the Birkin is that it can be left open, without gaping or allowing its contents to fall out. It has two handles on either side of the rigid top-stitched flap. The metal loops that the belt straps pass through are not closed so the belt straps can move freely, giving this bag a casual, practical feel.

The Birkin was a great success and became a new must-have from the house of Hermès. It has been produced in several colours and materials. The interior has a large patch pocket and another with a zip fastener. It is totally handmade, making each bag unique. It takes twenty-five hours of work to produce a bag and each one is made by a single crafts person. The first Birkin, owned by the actress, was sold at auction in 2007 in aid of the Federation for Human Rights.

The Birkin bag comes in four sizes: 25x19 cm, 30x23 cm, 35x28 cm and 40x31 cm. There is a larger travel bag version that is 50 cm wide. The handles make it possible to carry the bag in the hand, on the forearm or over the shoulder. It is fastened by a strap and a padlock. There are four studs on the base so it can be stood on the floor. It has been made in a huge range of colours and materials in response to the wishes and fantasies of customers who were happy to wait for several months, and sometimes years, to have the pleasure of carrying it.

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Models of Birkin bag

The Birkin bag comes in four main sizes: 25 cm, 30 cm, 35 cm and 40 cm. The Birkin comes in some twenty different materials including grained calfskin, veau doblis, ostrich leather and lizard skin, with some fifty colours to choose from.

Special features of the Hermès Birkin

A practical and spacious bag, the Birkin's handles are fitted so it can be carried in the hand or on the wrist. It closes with two outer lanyards containing the lock. The bag's leather lining ensures it is resistant and keeps its shape, while four studs on the base mean the bag can be placed on the floor. Its exceptional quality (20 hours of work carried out by a single craftsman) makes it an extremely rare bag that customers must order several years in advance.


The Birkin has continually developed over the years and seen its price multiply for all models by 2,3 in seven years. Leather and crocodile skin are the most used materials for the Birkin with 69% and 18% of total bags respectively. In 2007 you had to spend 4260 € on average for a leather Birkin, and almost three times as much – 10 683 € - in 2015.

The value of a crocodile-skin Birkin has also risen sharply over the past three years: while it was worth 27 536 € in 2007, by 2015 the price had risen to 46 402 €. The marked fall in 2009 was due to the subprime crisis, which had a more visible effect on crocodile than on leather because of its higher price.

All the figures of this study emanate from the databases of LuxPrice-index© , who survey the results of more than 200 000 auctions from the main auction houses around the world across a 12 year span.

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