LONDON – A Hermes Birkin handbag, formerly personally owned by Jane Birkin, the songwriter, actress and model who inspired its creation, sold on July 20 for £119,000 (about $162,000), five times its pre-sale estimate – topping the Bonhams Designer Handbags and Fashion Sale in Knightsbridge, London.
The Birkin has remained one of the most desirable and coveted handbags in the world since it was designed by the Head of Hermes in 1984, on a chance meeting with Jane Birkin on an Air France flight, in response to her complaint that she could not find a bag large enough to carry her daughter’s bottles.
Naturally, being the personal property of Jane Birkin, the circa-1999 black Togo Birkin 35 attracted much attention from the Bonhams bidders, finally achieving the six-figure sum following a two-way telephone bidding battle and earning applause from the saleroom.
The bag was one of five given to Birkin by Hermes since 1984, all of which she has sold to raise funds for charities. This particular bag was initially donated to a charity auction in 2014 to raise funds for Anno’s Africa, a charity set up in honor of Birkin’s poet nephew, Anno Birkin, who died just before his 21st birthday in a car crash.
It was accompanied by a letter from Jane Birkin and was signed by her in Tipp-Ex (a correction fluid similar to Liquid Paper) on the interior. It was further personalized by Birkin with a red cord tied around the handle and bite marks from her cat on the handle.
Meg Randell, Head of Bonhams’ Designer Handbags & Fashion department, commented: “It was such an honor to offer this incredible piece and we are thrilled with the result. The sale was really popular with lots of international bidding and strong prices achieved across all the major names: Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. However, the Birkin was the lot that everyone had been waiting for! Jane was known for really using her bags and customizing them to make her namesake accessory her own, and it is said her cat even slept in this one – so it’s not surprise it attracted so much attention since we let the cat out of the bag, and achieved such an incredible result.”
Other highlights of the sale included:
A Hermes white Togo Birkin 30, dating to circa 2004, which exceeded its top estimate to sell for £8,288.
A Hermes black box Kelly Sellier 35, circa 1947, an early example of the other quintessential Hermes handbag, which was later named after actress Grace Kelly. It sold for £7,650, above its pre-sale estimate.
Chanel Caviar Jumbo double flap bag, circa 2018, the classic little black Chanel bag. It realized £5,100, doubling its pre-sale estimate.
A Louis Vuitton Monogram Steamer Trunk, circa 1910. It also doubled its pre-sale estimate, making £6,375.
A Chanel fuchsia boucle wool skirt suit from the early 1990s, which sold for £1,020, twice its pre-sale estimate.
The current rate of exchange is £1 = $1.36
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