A flight of fancy
Like many of life’s best ideas, the inspiration for the world’s most iconic handbag arrived in a moment of pure serendipity.
In 1981, English singer and actor Jane Birkin was upgraded on an Air France flight to London – and, laden with an overstuffed handbag, took her seat next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the then chief executive of Hermès. Dumas struck up a conversation with Birkin, who lamented to him that she couldn’t find a bag spacious enough to carry her young daughter’s bottles. The duo began dreaming up the perfect design mid-air, with Birkin even sketching it out on an airplane sickbag, proposing, ‘Why don’t you make a handbag that is bigger than the Kelly but smaller than Serge’s suitcase?’
Later, when Birkin visited the Hermès atelier to see the result of their flight of fancy, Dumas gave her the finished bag in return for her lending her name to it – and so the Birkin was born.