The Birkin bag is the ultimate status symbol on two handles.

Costing anywhere between £5 000 (about R90 000) and £100 000, Victoria Beckham is said to have collected over a hundred Birkin Bags, and it has a waiting list to rival that of the NHS.

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Jane Birkin might be one of the most enduring style icons of the Sixties, with a wardrobe that thousands of Pinterest mood boards still gush over today, but how did Birkin end up with a bag named after her and why does it remain so coveted?

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The story goes that Birkin was on an Air France flight to London in 1981 when everything fell out of her straw bag as she tried to put it in the overhead locker.

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The man next to her told her she needed one with pockets and she responded by telling him that the day Hermès made a bag with pockets, she would get one.

“But I am Hermès and I will put pockets in for you,” came the reply.

Jane Birkin photographed by Giancarlo Botti (1968)
(c) Instagram

The man was in fact Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive of Hermès. And in what must be one of the least chic origins of a luxury item, according to Birkin’s version of events, she made a few sketches on the in-flight sick bag, and Dumas promised to make it and name it after her.

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It launched in 1984 and is carried by everyone from Kim Kardashian to Julia Roberts to Birkin herself, who personalises hers with lucky charms, worry beads and a watch (Hermès, natch).

Birkin receives no money for lending her name, although Hermès does give a lump sum each year as a form of royalty for Birkin to then donate to charities of her choice (in 2012 she claimed it was £30 000).

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The Independent
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