Mini, mini, mini. Feels like that’s nearly all we write about lately when it comes to handbags. K20, anyone? Or which would you rather – K25 or B25? Luxury houses keep making accessories that look like bags (whether or not they are) smaller and smaller. And we keep buying. Even if nothing fits inside!
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But we also keep returning to the original HGB (that’s Holy Grail Bag) which is anything but little. The Hermès Birkin 35 really is the bag that started it all. Even PurseBop’s own orange journey began with a B35 – in, appropriately, juicy orange.
Read: Super Bag XLVIII
This bag really stands out as a must-have for any Hermès aficionado. Read on as we make the case for the B35.
The B35 is The ‘Original’ Birkin!
Frankly, the story begins with muse and French actor Jane Birkin and her dilapidated straw basket. Nearly 40 years ago, on a flight between Paris and London, Jane Birkin found herself seated next to then CEO of Hermès Jean-Louis Dumas. During travel, all of Birkin’s belongings fell out of her straw travel bag stowed in the overhead compartment. She lamented to Dumas the difficulty of finding a good leather travel bag. Dumas immediately offered to create a bag for her, which he sketched on the back of an airsick bag. That bag…is what we now know as the Birkin 35.
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The Hermès Birkin Encyclopedia
For years, even decades, the B35 was the impossible bag to get. Rumors of wait lists, rejections at boutiques and episodes of Sex and the City were only part of the lure. The inaccessibility created tremendous demand.
Over time – likely from demand and requests – Hermès introduced a number of sizes and versions of the bag. The original design now comes as B25, B30, B35, and B40. But the 35 remains the classic.
Bigger Can Be Better
Sometimes size really does matter. Remember the B35 was originally intended for travel. As such, the Birkin (and, in particular its 35cm size) is a tote. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a dainty “ladies who lunch” or “evening at the opera” bag.
As for the inspiration, the B35 wasn’t supposed to be a duffle bag dump-it-in-the-car-trunk (or boot) or check-it-into-the-belly-of-the-airplane type of tote. Rather, this is a first class luxury air travel carry-on bag. Just imagine what spilled out of Jane Birkin’s straw sack. Our best guesses include wallet, passport and other travel documents, medications and essential toiletries, eyeglasses, snacks, shawl or wrap to stay warm, perhaps a change of clothes, jewelry, books and magazines, maybe a script or two to review, and so on. Don’t forget headphones and the Walkman – a portable cassette player relatively new back then. In other words, she was toting a whole lot more than a smart phone!
Now, fast forward to today. A lot of that same stuff still travels with you, although a laptop or ipad (with a myriad of chargers) probably replaces the reading materials. In other words, our travel load isn’t really any lighter!
Admittedly, right now with COVID-19, not many of us are travelling. However, our daily load (psychologically as well as physically) is greater. Even a trip to the grocery store becomes an outing requiring gear and supplies: masks, sanitizer, wipes, gloves are now de rigueur. Let’s just say your 25cm Birkin just isn’t going to hold all that stuff on top of your regular necessaries. Put another way, the B35 is practically made for pandemic life.
Of course, there’s a downside. Weight – the bag’s not yours. A leather B35 can be heavy, especially when filled to the brim. Indeed, Jane Birkin herself complained of this very issue (despite owning several over the years) and stopped carrying the bag. In an interview she once said that if you’re like her and carry “junk… and half the furniture from your house, it’s a very, very heavy bag”. But really, isn’t that true of virtually any bag?
Great for Nesting
Although probably not designed for this, the B35 is fabulous for bag nesting. No PurseBop travel article is complete without discussion of the bag within a bag within a bag packing technique. Nesting Bags: How To Travel With Handbags. Just look at how many bags PurseBop fit in her orange B35!.
Travel Guide: The Do’s and Dont’s
Important Tips for Traveling with Luxury Goods
PurseBop’s Handbag Travel Tips
If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with. It applies to bags too – though we still say you should love the B35. But the truth is that with small and smaller bags being all the rage, the B35 is (relatively) more available. Elite Hermès shoppers report multiple offers of this size, while the petite versions remain elusive. So, if you’re looking for your first Birkin, for example, you just might score if you’re open to this size.
Lack of popularity also translates to lower prices. Now, let’s be clear that that’s not the case in a Hermès boutique. At Hermès the price is the price and there’s no bargaining or discount. However, the secondary market, i.e. luxury resellers, is fairly flush with B35s just waiting to be rehomed. And when there’s supply with limited demand . . . well, prices go down. All of this is to say, you may find a deal on a B35 from a reputable secondary source like FASHIONPHILE.
A classic Hermès B35 will never really go out of style. It may not (or it may) be your everyday bag. But it fits in every collection.