Once upon a time, English actress Jane Birkin, famed in France for her years with musician and writer Serge Gainsbourg, happened to be sitting next to Hermès owner Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London. At the time, Birkin lugged a wicker basket everywhere, claiming she couldn’t find a weekend bag she liked. When her wicker wouldn’t fit in an overhead bin and its contents spilt, she and her seatmate spent the rest of the flight discussing purses and sketching their ideas on the back of an airsick bag. In 1986, Dumas presented her with the results of their collaboration, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that Birkin fever began to rage, leading to five-year waiting lists, countless counterfeits, and a secondary market where Birkins appreciate more than blue-chip stocks. Today, when phones and inboxes are flooded with special offers and influencer images, Hermès manages to maintain its mystique and remains one of the top luxury handbags with zero promotion.

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