Reaching the world of fashion is simple. It might also be achievable to stay relevant in it. However, leaving the industry as a natural icon of its history is a privilege reserved for a select few. Jane Birkin (1946, London – 2023, Paris) was one of the fortunate individuals who departed from earthly life with such distinction in her biography.

Passing away at the age of 76, the retrospective examination of this Franco-British woman, who left us only a year after her last musical endeavor, presents both bright and dark aspects. Her persona has always been intertwined with equal parts fortune due to her fame and condemnation for the same reason. She subtly hinted at this in her "Diaries, 1957-1982," revealing a Jane immersed in an erratic and whimsical inner universe, where her life was solely driven by the fluctuating tides of success.

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Jane's legacy extends beyond merely being the muse for countless fashion brands—likely thanks to her liberal mindset that defied cultural and stylistic clichés. Her vast body of work encompasses numerous films and equally valuable albums, all of which reflect her unique interpretation of fashion. Her contributions transcend any single artistic discipline to which she dedicated herself. She was the artistic and romantic partner of the renowned singer and actor Serge Gainsbourg, capturing the attention of the international press during the 1960s. Jane also emerged as a budding muse in French cinema during its most mischievous years and became an indisputable style icon of both the past and present. One can see the evidence of this in the iconic Hermès brand: a comfortable yet elegant bag bearing her name.

But the question remains simple: why did Hermès name their now infamous bag after Jane Birkin, which has become the most expensive bag in the world? The answer consists of three key ingredients: a mother's desperation to control her children's restless behavior, an airplane, and a creative director. Thus began the genesis of the world's most costly bag, several thousand meters above the ground. Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas were witnesses and active participants in the creation of the initial concept during a flight. As she attempted to appease her children by constantly rummaging through a bag to keep them entertained, he attentively observed the scene. Jane arrived at a conclusion and shared it with the then-director of Hermès, who happened to be her fellow passenger at the time: a small bag is incompatible with managing the demands of two young children.

This encounter took place in 1984 and continued at the French workshops of the Maison, where the highly coveted bag we know today took its final form: practical, spacious, comfortable, and elegant. At that time, these concepts were considered mutually exclusive. Dumas and Hermès established the foundation for a perspective that would resonate throughout the fashion industry: style should not be compromised by functionality. This creation, immediately put into circulation, was named the Birkin bag as a tribute to the multitasking mother who inspired it, soaring at great heights.

It was a potent blend of desire and necessity that transformed this fashion accessory into an iconic symbol, not only for the brand but for the entire industry. Its exclusivity remains grounded in the economic reasons rooted in craftsmanship. The Birkin bag is a personalized masterpiece, meticulously crafted upon request and entirely handmade. These three criteria make the Birkin bag an elusive collector's item.

Jane, who had the opportunity to immerse herself in the fashion world and sustain her presence within it, departs with the honor of having a bag named after her—a bag that represents the pinnacle of luxury. In fact, it is more than just a bag; it is a Birkin.

16 juillet, 2023 — Vincent GENEZ