As if this were a real debate, which of these two iconic bags would I choose? Kelly or Birkin? My husband’s vote is for neither, as he claims, the cost of either bag is more than the gross national product of a small Central American country. But for today I can weigh the options and daydream!
While both bags exude money (old, new, discreet, flashy), each signals to the world, or at least to an international pack of fashionistas, a very different style. For the uninitiated, these bags, which start at about $7,000 (£3000) and can top $25,000 (£12,000) depending on hide and hue, are named for a duo of beautiful women.
The Kelly Bag:
Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly had been wed less than a year to Prince Rainier of Monaco when she deftly obscured her royal pregnancy with a structured, crocodile Hermes purse on a 1956 Life magazine cover.
The Birkin Bag:
By contrast, it was during a 1981 airplane flight that the British-born actress-singer Jane Birkin’s overstuffed purse spilled in the vicinity of Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes. Three years later, the firm introduced a bag for Birkin’s more bohemian lifestyle based on an 1892 design. In a splendid bit of irony, Birkin recently confessed she barely used her bag because it had proved hazardous to her health (citing tendonitis).
Both the Kelly and the Birkin are crafted entirely by hand by a single artisan from start to finish, and embellished with a petite padlock, keys and gleaming hardware made of white or yellow gold.
But why, exactly, are they so expensive and so obsessively coveted? For starters, they are beautifully made. A single artisan can spend up to 25 hours painstakingly constructing a Kelly or Birkin. And, of course, there is the immutable law of supply, and demand at work here. Make something fabulous, in famously limited quantities, and people will clamor to own it. Myself included.
So which will it be? A Kelly or a Birkin? Fortunately (or unfortunately) it is a decision I don’t have to make today.