The Controversial Birkin Bag: Ultimate Style Statement or Crass Consumerism?

The Birkin bag is has generated more controversy and ire than any other piece of fashion accessory.

Often considered a symbol of great wealth, the ultimate statement of “having arrived” and “being there”, the bag, meant to be highly utilitarian and denoting class, has often been accused of being the ultimate in snobbery and conspicuous consumption. The prices range from $7,400 to $ 150,000.

The Controversial Birkin Bag - Ultimate Style Statement or Crass Consumerism


It was an accidental meeting that triggered off the design of the iconic Birkin. Jane Birkin met Jean-Louis Dumas from the house of Hermes on a flight from Paris to London in 1981. It so happened that James purse spilled all its contents over Jean and Jean decided to design a purse with pockets to take care of all of a woman’s personal travelling effects. Thus the Birkin was born.

The Design

Each handbag is made from a variety of hides – calf, ostrich, crocodile and lizard, with the saltwater crocodile hide being the most expensive – animal conservationists and PETA have made their protests, just to let you know. The inner lining is goatskin.

Standard sizes for the Birkin are 25, 30, 35 and 40 centimetres, with 50- and 55- centimetres for travelling bags.

The hardware is (locks , buckles, clasps, studs) are all coated with gold or palladium. You can encrust them with diamonds, if you wish. Birkins can be customized according to personal tastes.

Celebs and the Birkin

Ironically, it was Jane Birkin herself who started the whole concept of individualising an already custom-made Birkin. She believes in defacing a Birkin, rather like the rip-off jeans. She has auctioned three of her four Birkins for charity.

Below listed are some popular celebrities who popularly linked with birkin bags

  • Lady Gaga put graffiti in black marker on her white Birkin to show her love for her fans during her Tokyo tour.
  • In a bizarre expression of art, Francesca Eastwood’s boyfriend set her $100,000 Birkin on fire and trashed it with a chainsaw.
  • Kim Kardashian, Nene Leakes have defaced their Birkins in the name of art.
  • Victoria Beckham just loves Birkins – she has $2.5m worth of them!

The Birkin, made for style and functionality, terribly expensive, and subjected to abused – what’s your opinion?

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