Jane Birkin Reveals the Genesis of the Birkin Bag

Photo: Getty Images
Jane Birkin.

It’s one of the most iconic bags of all time and the ultimate prize for any dedicated purse collector, but do you know how the Birkin came to be?

The luxurious carryall was born out of pure luck, when Jane Birkin—the bag’s namesake—ended up on a flight next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive at Hermès at the time, the Telegraph reports.

"I remember it well,” Birkin said. “I'd been upgraded by Air France on a flight to London, and was sitting next to a man. I'm not quite sure what type of bag I had with me—my husband, Jacques Doillon, had reversed his car over my basket, crushed it on purpose not two days before.

“Little did he know that on this airplane journey, when everything fell out of whatever bag I had, the man next to me said: 'You should have one with pockets.’ I said: 'The day Hermès make one with pockets I will have that,’ and he said: 'But I am Hermès and I will put pockets in for you.’"

The two got to sketching together, right there on the plane.

"I said, 'Why don't you make a handbag that is bigger than the Kelly but smaller than Serge [Gainsbourg]'s suitcase?’ And he said, 'Well, what would it be like?' And I think I drew it on the sickbag—or the not-be-sick bag. And he said, 'I'll make it for you.'"

The moral of the story? Always try for that upgrade to first class.

Of course, the famously effortless Birkin doesn’t take herself—or her bag’s status—too seriously.

“[Hermès has] turned it to the success we know today," she said. "So now, when I go to America to sing, they say, 'Birkin—like the bag?' I say, 'Yes, indeed: and the bag will now sing.’"