In the Bag

The Hermès Birkin has it all: style, function and a reputation for playing hard-to-get. Carried by the world's chicest women, it's the ultimate must-have

"It" bags may come and go, but an Hermès Birkin lasts forever. Any woman worth her Manolos knows that.

The handbag was named for haute-hippie actress Jane Birkin after a chance meeting with Hermès chairman Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane in 1984. As the story goes, Birkin was rummaging through her basket-weave purse when it fell apart. Dumas assisted her in collecting the dropped items, they struck up a conversation, and—voilà!—shortly thereafter Dumas had the Birkin bag created as a token of friendship.

Derived from the Haut à Courroies, a style Hermès created in about 1900 to carry a saddle, the...

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