It’s been said that Tina Craig, one of the founders of the accessories superblog Bagsnob.com, has a closet devoted exclusively to Hermès Birkin bags. How many is that, you ask? ‘I try not to keep count, but it’s in the dozens,’ says Craig. A collector since 1996, she is a firm believer in the timelessness, usefulness, and innate sexiness of the boxy, handled Birkin. Here, in celebration of their lasting style and the exceptional, one-of-a-kind selection that’s at Christie’s Handbag Shop, Craig talks about how to wear them (‘Never, ever with a black tie gown,’ she says), why vintage ones are as good as new (‘They look so chic broken in!’), and why she considers buying one — or dozens — a worthy investment, indeed.
Do you have a favourite?
Tina Craig: ‘The matte rouge crocodile one that I bought in Paris.’
Why own so many?
‘I have a special place in my heart for Birkins. I've been collecting them for years, long before they became so popular. They are especially easy to carry and travel with, thanks to Jane Birkin, who suggested that Hermès alter the dimensions of their bigger Haut à Courroies (HAC) bag to fit under plane seats (hence the name, ‘Birkin’). When I was pregnant, mine served as the perfect diaper bag. I’d toss my baby's diapers and bottles in them and go.’
When did you buy your first Birkin bag?
‘Seventeen years ago, in 1996. I was in my mid-20s and decided to take my grandmother’s advice. She said that one good bag was better than half a dozen trendy ones. It cost about $4,000. That was before the Birkin was featured on Sex and the City (Samantha tried to buy a red one she saw in the window and was refused!), and way before it became a reality TV star favourite. But honestly, I'll always carry them, no mater who else does. Birkins have been the best investments I’ve ever made. That first Birkin I bought is now worth $9,000.’
Which is your newest?
‘A rose tyrien shiny crocodile one. It’s the perfect shade of lipstick pink.’
Which was the hardest to obtain?
‘The ‘Club’ – white with sanguine lizard stripes and a gris tourterelle center.’
What’s the greatest length you’ve ever gone to in order to obtain a specific Birkin bag?
‘Does flying to Paris count as a great length?’
What do you wear with your Birkin bags?
'Contrary to popular belief, Birkin bags are actually very casual and meant to be worn with anything and everything. I love them with jeans, leather pants or simple day dresses. But never, ever with a black tie gown.’
Do you have any advice on how best to care for a Birkin bag?
‘I am not very careful with my Birkins, I like them beat up and used-looking. A friend's French mother once told me she’d stomp on her Birkins in the Eighties so they wouldn’t look too ‘shiny.’ Birkins look chic when they’re broken in! I do take the exotic skin ones to Hermès for maintenance sometimes — you can also take them to a leathersmith. Crocodile and lizards will crack with age so they need more care.’
Which one do you carry the most?
‘All my Birkins get equal time on my arm.’
here to access Christie’s new online Handbag Shop.