London – Singer, songwriter, actress, and model, Jane Birkin, is best known as the ultimate symbol of French chic – despite being English. And she is celebrated for her provocative rendition of Je t’aime… moi non plus with her partner, Serge Gainsbourg. Birkin is also known for inspiring, and giving her name to, one of the most desirable handbags around – the Hermès “Birkin”. The story is that in 1984, by chance, the Head of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, found himself sitting next to Jane Birkin on a flight. Birkin complained of how she could not find a bag large enough to carry her daughter Lou’s bottles – and Dumas responded by designing her a deep and supple holdall on the back of an Air France sick bag. The rest is fashion history. Now one of Birkin’s own personal Birkin bags will be offered at Bonhams Designer Handbags and Fashion sale on 20 July in Bonhams Knightsbridge. The bag was originally purchased by the current owners in a charity auction benefiting Anno’s Africa in 2014. It is accompanied by a letter from Jane Birkin, and is signed by her in Tipp-Ex on the interior. It has an estimate of £15,000-20,000.
Head of Bonhams Designer Handbags & Fashion department, Meg Randell, commented: “Jane Birkin is synonymous with the ultimate in French cool and chic style, and the Hermès “Birkin” is the ultimate luxury accessory – so to be able to offer Birkin’s Birkin is incredibly exciting. Jane was known for really using her bags and customising them to make her namesake accessory her own. This bag shows wonderful signs of use by Birkin, such as the red cord tied around one of the handles, and bite marks from Birkin’s cat on the handle.”
Famous for customising her Birkin bags, Jane Birkin explained to Vogue in 2011: “I always hang things on my bags because I don’t like them looking like everyone else’s…There’s no fun in a bag if it’s not kicked around, so that it looks as if the cat’s been sitting on it – and it usually has. The cat may even be in it.”
Since the Birkin bag’s inception in 1984, Jane Birkin has been given five bags by Hermès, all of which she has sold to raise funds for charities. This particular bag was initially donated to raise funds for Anno’s Africa as part of a charity auction in 2014. The UK-based charity was set up in honour of Birkin’s poet nephew, Anno Birkin, who died just before his 21st birthday in a car crash. The charity, which bears his name, offers an alternative arts education to orphans and vulnerable children in some of Africa’s most deprived areas.
The bag was later exhibited in the 2016 Bagism exhibition at Shanghai’s K11 Mall, where it was placed alongside Grace Kelly’s own Hermès “Kelly” handbag.
Other highlights of the sale include:
Bonhams: Pink Gingham Lunchbox Bag, Chanel, Resort 2011, (Includes serial sticker) estimate £800 – 1,200.
A Chanel lunch box bag. The lining is insulated to keep your salad cool…. This bag featured on the runway in Saint Tropez for the 2011 Resort show.
Bonhams: Coco Mademoiselle Doll, Karl Lagerfeld For Chanel, c. 2010, (Includes dust bag and box) estimate: £3,000 – 5,000
An incredibly rare collector’s piece – created for the window display for the opening of the NY Soho store in 2010, and sold in very limited numbers afterwards. The window display featured mannequins in identical outfits to Coco’s, who is depicted as she was in her later years in the atelier.
Bonhams: Monogram Cabas Alto, Louis Vuitton, c. 2000, estimate £300 – 500.
A classic Louis Vuitton bag – and one for Friends fans as the same bag carried by the character Rachel in the final episode of the celebrated series.
Bonhams: Black Caviar Jumbo Double Flap Bag, Chanel, c. 2018, (Includes serial sticker) estimate £2,000 – 3,000.
The classic black Chanel bag.
Bonhams : Mint Green Tweed and Silk Jacket, Chanel, Cruise 2004, estimate £500 – 800.
A version of this jacket is owned by Anna Wintour, who was photographed in this jacket on several occasions throughout 2003-04.
The jacket and matching skirt were also shot for the November 2003 issue of Vogue.
A realistic sculpture of the celebrated Birkin bag.
Bonhams: Monogram Steamer Trunk, Louis Vuitton, c. 1910, (Includes one internal tray (one missing) estimate £2,000 – 3,000.
Following the successful sale of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks in the previous Bonhams sale, another historical example is offered.
The Bonhams Designer Handbags and Fashion sale will be a traditional live auction at 11am on Tuesday 20 July, with bids accepted from clients in the room (respecting social distancing and all local COVID-related guidelines) and will be livestreamed via bonhams.com. Absentee and telephone bids are also encouraged.
Pre-sale viewing of all lots will take place at Bonhams Knightsbridge on Sunday 18th July 11am-3pm and Monday 19th June 9am-5pm. No appointment is necessary to view the sale, but clients are requested to wear a face mask and respect social distancing practice.