Q+A: birkin on birkin

 photos via Vogue

this is why i love Jane Birkin. she's putting her much-loved, namesake Birkin bag up for auction on eBay and the proceeds will be donated to Red Cross relief efforts for Japan.

read the entire Vogue interview here. some choice excerpts:

when asked about the unique condition of her bag:
JB: 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! I always put on stickers and beads and worry beads. You can get them from Greece, Israel, Palestine—from anywhere in the world. I always hang things on my bags because I don’t like them looking like everyone else’s.

on what's in her Birkin:
JB: I’ve got my agenda, my BlackBerry, photos of all the children [daughters Kate Barry, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Lou Doillon], and my makeup, which is all upside down. It’s the nice mess that I always like.

and the idea of passing on her Birkin to her daughters:
JB: My daughter Lou does not have one. Personally, I think it would be a horrible thing to have a Birkin bag from your mother. 

so very cool and contrarian and flying in the face of so many women's attitudes about investment handbags. JB's carefree attitude and generous spirit is so refreshing and kind of reminds me of MK Olsen's totally and endearingly beat-up Hermes kelly. 

which brings me to the question: isn't this really what luxury is all about? not being afraid to use your bag as you would any practical everyday object? how do you treat your expensive handbags or other items?


  1. I definitely love using things until they fall apart. I think using an object--apart from selling it--is when your object has value. I don't really agree with displaying an object just for the purpose of display--you get so much more joy from using something!

  2. I wouldn't buy a bag that was too precious. If I knew I would fret over it all the time I wouldn't buy it - same goes for clothes. So far my more expensive bags have been patent or polished leather which is really resistant to water marks and it's easy to clean. I also just leave them on the floors, and I'm not great at stuffing them when I'm not using them. I live in a humid climate though, so I have to be careful about mould - I keep little sachets of dehumifiers in the bag.

    As for how Jane Birkin regards her Hermes, I wouldn't expect anything less from her, haha. She is so different from the people toting Birkins - Victoria Beckham springs to mind. I adore bags but I would never want to carry one as a status symbol.

  3. In the beginning, I babied my Balenciaga city but I found it very silly and even my mom told me to loosen up.. eventually I 'stopped caring' and now my bag looks so great. Even my shoes, with their creases, look well-loved and worn. I think the beauty in clothes is the 'refinements' that develop over time. And I think that if you really really love your clothes, you will find a way to fix them when they're about to fall apart. For instance my IM boots, I won't replace them completely (maybe buy another pair in black, for instacnce).. Rather, I will let a cobbler fix them.

    Btw, are we supposed to stuff the bags when we don't use them? My Balenciaga has been lying in its dustbag for 4 months now, lol.

  4. 0000: i love your username btw :) i agree. i think a lot of the obsession with keeping luxury bags pristine does come from the fact that a lot of women who buy them tend to 'upcycle' by selling existing LV, Balenciaga, etc bags to get new ones. which is fine - but it gets kinda out of hand when you become so OCD about every tiny scuff or mark. the best and most luxurious things that life has to offer ARE meant to be used and enjoyed!

    lin: i have a little bit of a thing where i'll still admire a beautifully made silk blouse or a recent purchase, and sometimes it'll end up being something that i don't wear as much as i should. but for my handbags i'm the same as you - hence black bags are great :)

    Fleurette: so funny that your mom told you to chill out about your bal! but she's right. the beauty of leather especially comes from using it - the patina and creasing and texture changes are all part of its/your history! also i believe Balenciaga is totally going for the well-loved/distressed vibe with the way they treat the leathers anyway. and yeah i never throw away shoes that are well made and expensive. it's so economical and responsible to take them to a skilled cobbler for re-soling.

    as for bag storage, i don't think your Bal needs to be stuffed - its an unstructured bag anyway. i think you're supposed to stuff bags that are more structured to help them keep their shape.

  5. That's my face pic of MK & her well loved Birkin. I'm a firm believer of using my "precious" bags, shoes, etc and not just having them for show. I like when items show bait of life, of being used and well loved.

    I have a friend who saved up to buy her first LV bag, then once she got it the bag was deemed for "special occasions" only. I couldn't understand that for the life of me esp. since my idea is every day is a special occasion.

  6. Pret a Porter P: yeah i did a post on that not too long ago - the whole 'legendary' story about the origins of the Hermes birkin is probably one of the most brilliant marketing ploys ever. i love that JB is still doing her own thing and playing it her way. i do wonder what she really has to say off the record about how Hermes has co-opted her name for such a lucrative product! but anyway have you seen those youtube videos where women show their hermes bags? :P

    i'm the same way as you with new purchases. but after a time the special treatment ends and that's when it really becomes part of my wardrobe!

    i wonder if JB still uses that straw basket...

    girl6: i know, right?? it's all about the natural distressing. i love your attitude - every day IS a special occasion! :D

  7. Pret a Porter P: ah yes, i think the story goes that JB talked about what she wanted out of an everyday bag and the result is that Hermes designed the namesake birkin accordingly. how ironic that the bag ended up giving her arm/shoulder problems!

  8. I agree that things are just things and shouldn't be taken seriously, but I have a hard time looking at items that haven't been taken care of, like that poor Kelly bag. I think some balance is okay too.

  9. I guess this is the distinction between using the bag and toting the bag--using it means the bag becomes part of your everyday living and pretty much part of your wardrobe and aesthetic choices, you build your style and the bag becomes part of it. When one totes a bag it's for the image of the bag and the brand status it carries so it's always kind of separate from the girl who totes the bag, the bag carries her, not the other way around. Usually those who tote the Hermes as status you can tell from afar, the bag stands out more than they.

    Leather and denim and sweatshirt always get better with age. the "proper" way to store the bag is to fill it so the shape of the bag is kept but my balenciaga has been beaten up quite a bit and it's slouching in this box right now.

  10. When I was buying my Celine box bag in Paris, I was a bit apprehensive because I knew that the soft leather would get scratched easily. Rather than deny that the leather would get scratched, the SA kept saying something along the lines of, "well, what can you do about it? the scratches show that the bag has been used and loved." I found this to be really insightful (and refreshingly honest). I like that things develop a patina over time, but I still try to be more gentle with my nicer things. If I had a Birkin, I'd definitely treat it more like how Jane Birkin treated hers. The style of that bag, in my opinion, is pretty utilitarian. It looks so much better broken in than stiff and buckled up.

  11. You know, I won't spend too much on a bag because I don't want to have to worry that much. But I think that beating up on a Birkin is kind of evil - even if the bag was named after you :-) I'd want to keep it pretty. No stickers, anyway.

  12. I try to take care of my shoes and bags, with leather conditioner and suede protector spray. Other than that, I think that leather usually becomes prettier with wear, and I like to be able to see that a bag or boots are loved and used a lot.

  13. I'm afraid I too tend to worry about my bags or more expensive items! It's in large part because I'm all too aware that I couldn't afford to replace them if I wrecked them accidentally! :) But I do think you have to force yourself to relax and enjoy your purchases, whilst being aware how precious they might be! For me as well I find it's best to be realistic about matching a bag or pair of shoes to your lifestyle - so is it worth spending £1000 on a white PS11? No. A black one would look perfect for years without too much babying. x

  14. Leather looks so much better when it gets wrinkly and scuffed. I love my bags but I love them more when they're a few years old.

  15. i always find the first scratch the most painful! But after the initial "new" phase, i just chill out and use it whenever i can.
    totally agree with your point that we should have a few luxuries as part of daily life, if its an expensive bag, or simply using nice soap.because we're worth it, right ;) but more seriously, i think alot of my favs are not just because they visually appeal & look good, but because they bring back alot of memories, of daily life not just special occasions.
    that said, i kind of agree with TJP on the Kelly,for me it veers too close to being bashed in, rather than merely natural wear & tear. i wonder if hermes could spruce it up once its at that stage.

  16. TJP: i agree that there is a happy medium - but i think it's possible to take care of something while still allowing it to age naturally!

    Nanashi: you're totally right! i don't like the 'new' feel of stiff leather either. it's all about the natural slouch as the leather breaks in - just like denim! :) would love to see you do a post with your Balenciaga sometime.

    jennifer: what kind of leather is your Celine bag? i think you can definitely take care of an expensive bag while still using it like it was meant to be used. as long as it's well-made, the leather will break in the way it should with time!

    Kristin: fair enough! :)

    Garderoben: yep - same here! this is why i love my Golden Goose boots...they patina and age wonderfully.

    Olivia: oh yeah - i'm with you on practical considerations. i never understood the idea of a white leather bag or white pants! but i think enjoying luxurious things ought to come with ease, no? that's how one imagines Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn did it back in the day. :)

    Kate: i agree! it's what makes them unique :)

    son: yes - lin posted a wonderful essay from W magazine on this. you should read it! i think in MKO's case the kelly is a vintage one, so it already was well loved. but i'm sure the craftsmen at Hermes can work wonders :)

  17. I love her attitude about the Birkin, it really does seem like she's the opposite of a "Birkin bag" lady! I love the look of well loved, aged bags and shoes, but at the same time, I would have a really hard time not treating a multi thousand dollar bag like it wasn't extremely precious. My solution would be to never buy one. I know some women who use their Birkins as diaper bags, and it just makes me laugh. Poop on your Birkin ... not a good thing!

  18. I was the type to sort of obsess about the maintenance of my pricier possessions. I would not wear my nicer clothes or use my nicer bags or slip on my nicest shoes, all because I wanted them to last, to be as new as the first day I got them.
    I learned rather late that the whole point of owning all this crap is so we can feel just as good every time we use it. I now wear my cashmere sweaters and leather leggings with ease and pleasure; they are practical objects, not idols!

  19. I'm finding it difficult to start using my Bayswater all the time without being worried about it getting beat up. I think it makes it worse that I broke the clasp off already! I do love the look of aged and well-used leather though. I'm the same with silk- not wearing it anywhere I think I might wreck it.

    I LOVE that she covers hers with stickers and beads- Individualizing a commonly seen bag is a great idea.

  20. i used to be so afraid to use all my nice things.. but now I realise that you have to use your luxury items otherwise it's just a waste. jane and mk are definitely icons in that respect. use it and love it!


  21. S: i know what you mean. i'd get one as a milestone gift to myself someday if and when i attain enough professional standing to afford it. still, hilarious that some women sacrilegiously use theirs as a diaper bag! i think i'd draw the line there ... :)

    Pennerad: i know - i am still kind of the same way, but learning to not be! curious where your leather leggings are from - i've been dreaming about a pair of stretch lambskin ones from The Row!

    asha: mmm. well if it makes you less worried i know many people say their Mulberry bays can stand up to A LOT of wear and tear and still look pretty good. it's a hardy bag and the leather is pretty tough. you should use it freely!

    hannah-rose: yes! there's a difference between using vs abusing your pricey items :) i like how MK and Sofia Coppola and others incorporate it easily into their lifestyles. definitely the way to go.

  22. I loved her comments on her bag. I am the kind of person who uses something brand new right away....so I love to see well worn items. I saw that some people wrote that it was a little disrespectful which I personally don't understand...but to each their own. I love Jane.

  23. I have literally worn my IM coat every day since I got it. It's all pilled and the shape's pretty much ruined but I still feel so good in it! I think you just have to wear the things you love.



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