Inside the Handbag That Led to Hermès Birkin – WWD

On Sunday, actress and singer Jane Birkin passed away at 76. Birkin had been canceling and postponing concert appearances after a stroke she had in 2021. Her name is synonymous with fashion and Hermès — Hermès named the world-famous Birkin bag after her.

Jane Birkin straw bag, 1970, fashion, photos

Jane Birkin in June 1970.

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Birkin sat next to Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London in 1984. When she went to put her signature straw bag in the overhead compartment, it tilted over, and its contents fell out. Birkin told Dumas about her struggles to find a sizable leather bag she liked. That same year, the Hermès Birkin bag debuted after Dumas tapped into Hermès’ design archives.

jane birkin straw bag, British singer and actress Jane Birkin participates in a pro-choice demonstration of support for French family planning during an abortion trial in Bobigny. (Photo by Alain Dejean/Sygma via Getty Images)

Jane Birkin participates in a pro-choice demonstration of support for French family planning during an abortion trial in Bobigny on Nov. 1, 1972.

Alain Dejean

Despite having one of the most coveted luxury handbags in the world named after her, Birkin didn’t forsake her signature straw bag for more than a decade throughout the 1970s. Birkin first adopted the straw bag after discovering it on a trip to Portugal. The straw bag was basically a fisherman’s basket, but it became Birkin’s go-to bag for trips to the farmers market and socialite events. She famously wore the bag at a pro-choice rally in France in 1972.

Jane Birkin straw bag, Cannes France, 1974, fashion

Jane Birkin in Cannes, France, in 1974.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The bag held everything, including Birkin’s makeup, keys and various other items. In a 2018 interview, the style icon said, “I was well known for carrying a basket. So I obviously knew girls liked to have masses of things in their handbag.”

Jane Birkin straw bag, Serge Gainsbourg, 1974, Cannes Film Festival, straw bag, fashion, style

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg during the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Birkin paired her straw bag with casual outfits like jeans and T-shirts and also wore the bag with evening gowns and heels.

Photos of Birkin depict using the straw bag to grocery shop and hold things like bread and even pick up her morning newspaper. The bag would influence generations of French girl style, and other brands, including Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Loewe and Poléne have all created versions of the straw bag.

Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg and Regine celebrate new year's eve at Regine's night club in Paris in 1977. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)

Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg and Regine celebrate New Year’s Eve at Regine’s night club in Paris in 1977.

Getty Images

Birkin’s style was often described as bohemian chic, and she found ways to elevate classic wardrobe staples from minimalist T-shirts to oversized sweaters. The straw bag is an eternal aspect of her fashion aesthetic that is poised to continue influencing French girl style for generations to come.

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