What is a Birkin Bag, and why is it so hard to get?

Luxury fashion brand Hermès recently became embroiled in a class action lawsuit in California over allegedly refusing to sell Birkin bags to potential customers. But what even is a Birkin bag, and what's the big fuss all about?

Luxury fashion brand Hermès recently became embroiled in a class action lawsuit in California over allegedly refusing to sell Birkin bags to potential customers. But what even is a Birkin bag, and what's the big fuss all about?
Luxury fashion brand Hermès recently became embroiled in a class action lawsuit in California over allegedly refusing to sell Birkin bags to potential customers. But what even is a Birkin bag, and what's the big fuss all about?  © Hermès

You may have seen the Birkin bag on the arms of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Cardi B, and Julia Fox.

Birkin bags have been referenced in iconic TV shows like Sex and the City as well as Gilmore Girls – and both make a point of showing just how extravagant and difficult to obtain the purses are widely known to be.

The inception of the bag supposedly goes back to 1984 when actress and fashion icon Jane Birkin found herself seated next to Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London.

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Dumas happened to be the Executive Chairman of Hermès at the time and took notice when the star complained that she couldn't find a bag large or versatile enough for her needs.

Thus, the Birkin bag was created! The story is well-known in fashion circles and repeated on Hermès' website with separate corroboration from Jane Birkin herself.

Jane Birkin became famous for toting around a basic wicker basket as a catchall in the '60s and '70s, so the Hermès Birkin bag may have also taken an aesthetic cue from that accessory with the short handles and wide, structured base.

Why are Birkin bags so hard to get?

Plaintiffs in the California case claim that the bags are purposefully difficult to obtain in order to artificially inflate demand for the highly expensive product, which raises antitrust concerns.

Some even allege that they were encouraged by the brand to buy other Hermès products in order to "earn" the right to buy a Birkin bag.

What do you think – are Birkin bags overrated, or are they worth the hype?

Cover photo: Hermès

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