Bringing together iconic bags with their stories
Designed in 1983, the Birkin is the ultimate luxury bag that resulted from an accidental meeting between actor Jane Birkin and Hermès Creative Director Jean Louis Dumas. On an international flight, the two were seated next to each other. It was Dumas’s question why Birkin traveled with a straw tote. Her reason for wanting a boho bag was that most leather bags were too structured for her tastes. A backpack was designed on the back of an airsickness bag as a result of that discussion. Nobody knew that day was a day for doodles about fashion history. Its style and function have remained largely the same for decades. As a result of its exotic skins and diamond-encrusted hardware, it now commands hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions. Four hundred forty thousand dollars was the price paid by Sotheby’s for one last year. One was sold for $237,500 at Christie’s the year before. An auction at Sotheby’s recently sold 76 Birkin bags from a Hong Kong billionaire’s private collection for $3.2 million.
Among the most iconic bags in the world is the Birkin. This item is made to last a lifetime. Hermès makes saddles by hand using highly trained craftsmen. Business Today spoke with Rachel Koffsky, SVP and International Head of Department for Handbags & Accessories at Christie’s, about the iconic bag. A Birkin bag can take up to 40 hours to make by a single expert craftsman. Two needles must simultaneously pass through the same seam to produce a Birkin correctly, explaining that the stitch on which the brand’s reputation is built-the saddle-cannot be replicated by a machine. Because of limited production and long waitlists, most people end up buying it second hand.
Art Market Research found that handbags had more investment potential in 2020 than rare artworks, cars, and whiskies combined. A Banksy artwork’s price increased 23 percent over a year, but a Birkin bag’s price increased 42 percent. Approximately $100 billion is expected to be spent by 2027 on luxury handbags, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Like most luxury accessories, these bags are primarily sold in the United States and China. There is no doubt that the Birkin bag is the ultimate ‘it’ bag among fashionistas and investors alike, but it isn’t the only one. The Kelly, the bag’s sister, also commands remarkable prices at auction. In the world, the Himalaya Crocodile Diamond Retourné Kelly 35 is considered among the most collectible bags. The price has been up to $500,000. “The Himalayan Kelly we sold at an auction holds the record for the most expensive piece ever sold at an auction,” said Koffsky.
An expert craftsman takes up to 40 hours to make the Birkin, the Holy Grail of luxury bags
Dispatch Bag was the original name of the Kelly in 1935. It wasn’t until 1956 that movie-star-turned-princess Grace Kelly used the bag to shield her baby bump from the media that it gained worldwide recognition. Upon learning that the ‘Kelly Bag’ had gone viral, Hermès renamed it in her honor as their response to the demand was so great. Despite its high demand and long waitlists, the bag remains one of the most sought-after bags in the world.
Is there anything special about a bag? In choosing an iconic bag, timelessness is definitely important. Since they were created decades ago, most of these bags have not only not lost their momentum, but they also seem to get better as they age. For instance, one of the world’s most coveted bags is the Chanel 2.55, named after the date it was launched (February 1955). Seven decades later, it remains popular. At over $8,500, the bag made fashion history as it was the first to allow its wearer to carry a bag on their shoulders while having their hands free. It was reissued by Karl Lagerfeld in 2005. The value of Chanel bags rose by 24,5% from last year, according to a study by the Credit Suisse Group. In particular, those designed by Lagerfeld are highly sought after.
Taking its name from US First Lady Jackie Kennedy, the Gucci Jackie was renamed in 1961
Louis Vuitton’s Speedy bag is another iconic bag. In 1959, Audrey Hepburn requested Louis Vuitton to make this purse smaller, making it a hugely popular purse. It was launched in 1930 as a luxurious-yet-practical travel bag. Hispburn made it her go-to bag after reducing its width from 30 centimeters to 25 centimeters. You can choose from a range of sizes between 25 cm and 40 cm. Only minor tweaks have been made to the bag over the years. Stores usually sell it for around $1,600.
It is common for iconic bags to be named after celebrities who are carrying them. Gucci’s Jackie bag, which was originally named the Constance in 1950, was renamed after Jackie Kennedy, who loved it, in 1961. As the bag has evolved from hobo to more structured over the decades, the house has reintroduced it several times. Depending on the size and material of the bag, it is priced between $2,400 and $4,500. On secondary sites such as Rebag, vintage Gucci bags sell for a high price. The Lady Dior bag also has a fascinating history. It has been reported that Bernadette Chirac, wife of former French President Jacques Chirac, asked Dior to gift Princess Diana a bag when she visited Paris in 1995. It was originally called ‘Chouchou,’ a loose translation of favourite of Napoleon III rattan-style chairs, and has gold hardware and demi-arched handles and stitching details. Lady Dior became Princess Diana’s favorite bag after she was often seen carrying it and when she was spotted with it frequently, Dior named it after her. Among the most iconic bags, the Lady Dior is priced upwards of $4,000.