Oct 1, 2020
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First ever Hermès Birkin to join V&A Bags exhibition

Oct 1, 2020

The first-ever Hermès Birkin bag is set to go on display alongside 300 standout handbags as part of the V&A’s upcoming fashion exhibition, Bags: Inside Out.

Jane Birkin was the inspiration behind one of the world's most iconic handbags - Courtesy of V&A

The bag, designed by the former executive chairman of Hermès Jean-Louis Dumas for Jane Birkin, is sure to be a high point of the showcase when it opens on 21 November.

Known around the world as an undeniable symbol of wealth and luxury, the Birkin will be featured alongside other designer handbags, despatch boxes, vanity cases and military rucksacks.

Jean-Louis Dumas and Jane Birkin met by chance on a flight from Paris to London in 1981, and Dumas was inspired to sketch the new design after the actress complained that she could not find a stylish bag large enough to carry her belongings.

The resulting style was a supple rectangular holdall with a burnished flap and saddle stitching that bears Birkin’s initials. Unlike the ones that folloed, this bag is equipped with a shoulder strap, and it shows residue of adhesive from the stickers Jane Birkin liked to apply to it.

The bag was donated by the actress for an auction to support the fight against AIDS in 1994 and was acquired in 2000 by handbag collector Catherine B, who owns “Les 3 Marches” boutique in Paris.

Lucia Savi, curator of Bags: Inside Out at the V&A said: “The 'Birkin' is one of the most sought-after and celebrated handbags of the 20th and 21st century. We are thrilled that we will display the very first piece made for Jane Birkin which started this long-lasting fascination. This is a truly unique bag which was used and reused by its former owner and shows signs of wear on its surface. These very personal details remind us that bags are status symbols, but also practical companions to our everyday life.”

The Victoria & Albert Museum has also secured two Mulberry bags worn by Kate Moss and Alexa Chung to add to the extensive assortment of items going on display next month. The Bayswater, used by Kate Moss, is one of the brand’s most iconic styles, while the Alexa satchel played a key role in the revival of the ‘It’ bag.

Other exhibition highlights include a large embroidered burse used to protect the silver matrix of Elizabeth I’s Great Seal of England and the Fendi Baguette bag carried by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City.

Bags: Inside Out opens at the V&A in South Kensington on 21 November.

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