“You know, when I’m dead, not only will people remember me for ‘Je t’aime moi non plus,’ but they’ll possibly only talk about the bag,” Jane Birkin.

The name “Birkin” nowadays conjures up images of Hermès, but in the beginning, it was just Jane and her picnic basket.  Jane Birkin, despite not being French is the embodiment of French style, and her name is forever etched in entertainment and fashion history, having been the ‘It Girl’ behind one of the most iconic “It” bags in history. 

As with all good stories the date varies, but we shall set the scene in fair Par-ee, or on an Air France flight out of said Par-ee and into London to be exactly exacting, sometime in the early 1980s. Our cast of characters sees Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas being seated next to our ingénue, Jane Birkin. As she struggles to stuff her oversized, overfilled iconic straw basket into the overhead compartment, it takes a nose dive and all her worldly contents consequently spill across the plane floor. Jane carried it all in her wicker basket: keys, makeup, the occasional baguette crushed up alongside an armful of market finds, magazines, pastry boxes, a fading French cigarette, a neckerchief she would wear as a bracelet, you name it, she had it at her fingertips.

“I was well known for carrying a basket. So I obviously knew girls liked to have masses of things in their handbag.”

Jane was the perfect fashion blend of Europe - the ‘je ne sai quoi’ of the French mixed with the ‘tea and sconces with a side of anarchy and sarcasm’ of the Brits. She was just as perfectly feminine in blue jeans, a white tee, and her husband’s oversized jacket as she was in understated evening gowns made of velvet and adorned with sequins - but all outfits were accompanied by a wicker basket strung on her arm. 

Photo by Alain Dejean. Image source

The woven cane basket, which she carried rain, shine, or pro-choice rallies throughout the 70s, had originally been purchased at Castro Marim in Portugal. Its intended use was for fishermen and not Parisian nightclubs, however, Jane was well known for her simple approach to fashion and the straw basket became her first fashion statement. 

The straw basket was already making a fashion statement and it saw a departure from the traditional handbags that were popular with the generations before. The 1950s saw demure matching sets, whereas the 60s ushered in a new era of groovy practicality. No longer were bags clumsy and cumbersome, now they were sleek, made of exciting new materials AND they had pockets! Like with most things in the 1960s, it was as exciting as it was revolutionary, and through the years designers such as Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, and Prada have all added a weft of weave to their collections. 

But… that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, we go back in time to the moment Jane inspired the most famous bag in fashion history.

Jane Birkin, 1970. Image source

As Jane scrambled her things back into her beloved basket, she moaned to Jean-Louis that no bag existed that had as many pockets as she required to make it through the day. The plane flew on and Jean-Louis drew on, and by touchdown at English tea time, the first sketch of the first Birkin bag in history had been made. Within a year, the bag was being manufactured and the first recipient of the now iconic bag was none other than the woman who was the namesake and inspiration: Jane Birkin. Recalling the creation years later she stated, “Accidents are the best things in existence.”

Jane only began using the Birkin around a decade later. Sadly, her straw bag saw a passionate demise when a very soon-to-be ex-husband angrily (and no it’s not the ex-husband you’re thinking of) and deliberately drove over it in their driveway and even then she would only own one Birkin at a time (demonstrating that there really IS only one Birkin). She would decorate it with stickers and beads from her travels, she would use it until it was falling to pieces and then she would auction off the remains to charity and start all over again. 

From ‘Sex in the City’ to the ‘Gilmore Girls,’ the Birkin bag has made its mark on stage and screen actresses’ arms, but it all started with Jane and her straw basket. Jane took the straw bag from her arm and raised it up the ranks to timeless fashion, and with our selection, you too can capture the essence of an endless summer’s day spent picnicking perhaps on the Riviera, as the whole world melts away…

“When you start recognizing that you're having fun, life can be delightful.”
Jane Birkin.

RODO Wicker Frame Box Bag

RODO Wicker Frame Box Bag, Woven Strap Purse, Crosshatch Shoulder Clutch, Cable Chain Shoulder Clutch
KORET Basketweave Bamboo Handbag, Willow Weave Shoulder Clutch

RODO Candy Apple Clutch, Chilli Red Shoulder Clutch
VINTAGE Woven Strawberry Picnic Bag
VINTAGE Accordion Bamboo Basket Bag

RODO Floral Bucket Bag

ANN TAYLOR Woven Tassel Clutch 

RODO Motley Woven Shoulder Clutch

MARCUS BROTHERS Woven Stripe Vinyl Handbag
LESCO LONA Woven Vinyl Handbag
VINTAGE Beaded Box Purse

RODO Minaudière Rhinestone Bag
JB LOU Gingham Box Bag & Scarf Set


Additional photos via thechicflaneuse, Pinterest

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