Jane Birkin, actress and fashion icon, dies - a look at how she inspired the Birkin bag, one of the most sought-after accessories of all time

Jane Birkin has passed away aged 76, but her legacy will live on forever – not least because of the Birkin bag

Jane Birkin has passed away, aged 76
(Image credit: Steve Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Jane Birkin has died at the age of 76.

Born and raised in London, the singer and actress moved to Paris in 1968, going on to release 14 albums throughout her career.

Known for her French films, like 1969’s Slogan, Jane made Paris her home. She was sadly found dead at home by her caregiver on Sunday morning (July 16).

Jane Birkin was still performing in 2022

(Image credit: David Wolff-Patrick/Redferns)

While she’s remembered for her artist works, she’s also synonymous with a piece of arm candy like no other, the Birkin bag.

Today, it’s seen as the most exclusive accessory in the world. There are some financial experts who suggest that, like a Rolex, they make for a better investment than gold.

But just how did Jane Birkin inspire one of the world’s most luxurious items?

How did the Birkin bag come to be, and how was Jane Birkin involved?

Like most ‘stranger than fiction’ tales, it was all by chance.

In 1984, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was sat next to Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London.

Jane Birkin with her eponymous bag

(Image credit: Jun Sato/WireImage)

Jane had just placed a straw bag in the overhead compartment for her seat, but the contents fell to the deck, leaving her to scramble to replace them. Jane explained to the chief executive of one of France’s leading luxury firms that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked.

Inspiration struck.

Jean-Louis took this encounter as inspiration to create a black leather bag for the new era, based on an earlier design, the Haut à Courroies, which Hermès had made around 1900.

Despite inspiring the birth of a true sartorial legend, Jane apparently stopped using Birkin bags not long after.

She’s quote as joking, “What's the use of having a second one? You only need one and that busts your arm; they're bloody heavy. I'm going to have to have an operation for tendonitis in the shoulder.”

Jerry Hall, Victoria Beckham and Jlo with their Birkin bags

(Image credit: Getty)

The Birkin has been recreated and reimagined for decades, becoming the ultimate status symbol.

How is the Birkin Bag made?

Part of the allure – and the exclusivity – of the Birkin bag is the painstaking craftmanship which goes into making each and every one.

The bags are handmade in France using the company's signature saddle stitching, developed in the 1800s.

Each bag is hand-sewn by a single artisan, and is then buffed, painted, and polished, taking up to 18 hours to make.

A crocodile Birkin bag

(Image credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

There are rumors that an artisan must train for a minimum of five years before they are allowed to make their first Birkin bag.

How much is a Birkin bag?

Birkin bags typically range anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000 for the classic design – that’s if you can buy one from Hermès themselves.

Often, the wait list is so lengthy that people have to turn to re-sellers. Part of this exclusivity is why they are considered the ultimate status symbol.

What’s the most expensive Birkin bag in the world?

Dubbed “the rarest bag in the world”, the Himalayan Birkin is thought to be the most expensive Birkin.

A Himalayan Birkin Bag, dubbed the rarest bags in the world

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Made from albino crocodile skin, you actually need to be invited to purchase one.

That’s right. You need to be asked to spend hundreds of thousands – and you’re only asked once you’re known to be a perfect fit (and regular shopper) by the fashion house.

Records report that a Himalayan Birkin sold for $500k in 2019 which was made from white crocodile skin and was encrusted with 10.23 carats of diamond.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.