Jane Birkin's Birkin Bags Top Spot at Bonhams

A Hermès Birkin handbag, formerly personally owned by Jane Birkin, the songwriter, actress and model who inspired its creation, sold for £119,000 today (Tuesday 20 July 2021), 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 Hermès 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 c.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 Hermès 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 honour 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 on the interior. It was further personalised 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 honour 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: Hermès, 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 customising 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:

• Hermès White Togo Birkin 30, c. 2004, exceeded its top estimate to sell for £8,288.

• Hermès Black Box Kelly Sellier 35, c.1947, an early example of the other quintessential Hermès handbag, later named after actress Grace Kelly, which sold for £7,650, above its pre-sale estimate.

• Chanel Caviar Jumbo Double Flap Bag, c. 2018, the classic little black Chanel bag which realised £5,100, doubling its pre-sale estimate.

• Louis Vuitton Monogram Steamer Trunk, c.1910, also doubled its pre-sale estimate, making £6,375.

• Chanel Fuschia Bouclé Wool Skirt Suit, early 1990s, sold for £1,020, twice its pre-sale estimate.

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