The Birkin bag is a line of tote bags, introduced in 1984 by the French luxury goods maker Hermès. The bag quickly became a symbol of wealth and exclusivity due to its high price and assumed long waiting lists. Nevertheless, Birkins are a popular item with handbag collectors and were once seen as the rarest handbag globally.
In 2020, prices started at US$11,000 for regular leather. However, they have reached up to US$380,000 (HK$2.94 million) when a bag made of exotic skin and diamonds was sold at auction by Christie’s in Hong Kong for a record price in May 2017. The luxury bag also comes in various hides such as calf leather, lizard, and ostrich. Among the most expensive saltwater crocodile, skin and bags with smaller scales cost more than those with larger scales. In addition, each bag is lined with goatskin. The interior color matches the exterior with prices for the Birkin bag depending on the type of skin, color, and hardware fixtures.
Sizes range from 25 to 40 centimeters, with 50 and 55 centimeters traveling bags. It also comes in various colors such as black, brown, golden tan, navy blue, olive green, orange, pink, powder blue, red, and white. The bag has a lock and keys. The keys are enclosed in a leather lanyard called a clochette, carried by looping it through a handle. The bag is locked by closing the top flaps over buckle loops, wrapping the buckle straps, or closing the lock on the front hardware. Locks and keys are number-coded. Early locks only bore one num
ber on the bottom. In more recent years, Hermès has added a second number under the Hermes stamp of the lock.
The metallic hardware is plated with gold or palladium. Detailing with diamonds is another custom option. In addition, Hermès offers a “spa treatment,” a reconditioning treatment for heavily-used bags. Sometimes, Birkins or other Hermès bags may be made by independent artisans for “personal use,” but only once a year. Finally, every bag bears the artisan’s stamp. These identifications vary widely but are not different for every bag made. In addition, Hermès offers a “spa treatment,” a reconditioning treatment for heavily-used bags. A “Shooting Star”
The Birkin bag may be distinguished from the similar Hermès Kelly bag by the number of its handles.