The Hermès Birkin arguably epitomizes conspicuous consumption. Made from only the finest materials in the world, it needs no advertisements; it is not even listed for sale on Hermès’s online shop. Old-money socialites and young trendsetters alike carry it. But how does it reflect upon its devotees -- both owners and aspirants? What does it say about the values held by people in the know? To what lengths will people go in order to own a Birkin (or a cheap look-alike)? __________ I chose to examine the Birkin out of a personal interest in fashion. Although clothing may seem trivial on its surface, it speaks volumes about how the wearer views themselves and others, as well as how they wish to be perceived. My interest in luxury brands,…show more content… Jane Birkin had this to say about the origin of the handbag named after her:
I remember it well. 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 '.
That man was the late Jean-Louis Dumas, then chief executive of Hermès. They began to sketch ideas for the bag on an Air France sick bag. In exchange for giving her the bag for free, he asked that he be able to name the bag after her, so that it may be associated with her popularity and image (Leitch). It is unclear whether or not that story is true, but its effects are clear. The story serves as a creation myth, making the handbag seem sacred and divine due to the serendipitous encounter that birthed it. The Birkin is handmade in France, a process which takes between 18 and 20 hours per bag depending on the craftsperson’s level of experience. The handle alone takes four hours to make (Groat). Hermès sources its cow and calf hides from Tanneries Haas, an equally storied tannery in Alsace, France. Virtually all of the labor is