Photo: Zimbio

I did get excited about a designer handbag once. It was six years ago, when I met Jane Birkin. This was at Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, where we chatted for 15-minutes – and she didn’t call security. We talked mainly about her work as a campaigner on social issues and Aung San Suu Kyi, who was still under house arrest at the time. One of the highlights of the encounter was when Birkin reached under the table and pulled out this little number:

That IS My Photo

The Real Jane Birkin Bag. Just look at the casual way it’s accessorized with beads, stickers and what- not. I had to take a photo. Birkin herself definitely falls into the Chic Not Shouty category and has used accessories to conceal and quieten down the eponymous bag. The most expensive bag in the world is a Hérmes Birkin bag and therefore I would say ownership of one is giving the world a loud, loadsamoney message (Victoria Beckham’s collection of Birkin bags is worth over 1.5m million). Having said that, a study reported in the Telegraph says that over the past 35 years Birkin bags have ‘performed better than the American stock market and the price of gold.’ And the way the pound is heading right now, I’ll need a bag the size of a Birkin to carry my money in when I pop to the shops for a pint of milk and some teabags..

Thanks for all your feedback on the previous Chic Not Shouty bags post, I’m trying to figure out if there’s a nifty way to include something in Book Number Two. And also for bringing Agnes Badoo’s gorgeous bags to my attention (apparently Jenny Howorth was carrying one). I’ve noticed that Me + Em’s chic leather saddle bag (available HERE) comes in under the APC version and that Toast has a couple of lovely leather saddle bags and totes. Here are some Chic Not Shouty non-Birkin bags (no waiting list required):

33 thoughts on “More thoughts on Chic Not Shouty bags

  1. WOW, that foto of the bag! It impresses me also because of the fantasy put into it, like a little work of art. I mostly get bored, when I see women wearing “the Birkin”, to be honest and I don’t like the shoutyness about them either.
    What I look for in a daily-bag, apart from a clear/elegant style, is especially good quality leather. I want to like to touch – because you often have too. It has to age beautifully – just like us ; )

  2. I have to add a Grande Henri bag by Clare V to the list of lovely but not loud. I have never bought a bag without seeing it before but I’m teetering on the brink!!

  3. You are joking? How very sad to want something that looks just like an untidy shopping bag. Why not be original, why copy someone else? With regards to milk and tea bags – time to support British farmers and British producers don’t you agree?

  4. Love all these. I have a version of that APC bag and it’s fab – small yet roomy enough for an iPad Mini. I also like the Smythson North South, the leather stays looking good whatever you put it through.

  5. Hahahaha love this post Alyson! Gave me a giggle.
    Ms Birkin is a legend for sure, I’ve always admired her haphazard way of decorating her namesake bag – Really brings down the “pretention” value often associated with high-end handbags. As for actual value, well part of my reasoning when I bought my Chanel bag was that it would appreciate in value. Lo & behold it has indeed! Not that I’d ever sell it although my kids might after I’m dead 😉
    I don’t see much difference in collecting art as an investment to collecting handbags as investment. In fact bags are a work of art to me.
    However I do think with anything like this there should be a sensible cut off point for good taste. I mean if someone has enough money to accumulate 1.5 million worth of just one label they should take a long look at their morals as a human being. It’s obscene. Sell a few & get some mosquito nets or give the money to Wateraid….

  6. I like Retrochicmama’s comment above. That her designer bag is something that she cherishes, makes the financial spend on an accessory justifiable. On the other hand, anyone who owns 1.5 million worth of Birken bags has got to be awfully unimaginative and disgustingly materialistic.

  7. I used to think the Birkin was the epitome of style and desirability and I’d treat myself when I really made it. When I got to the stage that I could just about afford one as a very, very special treat, they became ubiquitous and carried by all sorts of ‘slebs’ and it no longer represented what I wanted. It’s interesting the bags hold their value and I do appreciate a beautifully made bag, it’s just the Birkin camp is no longer for me. I think Jane Birkin’s style is what really made it desirable. It’s the person, not the bag.

  8. I love Fossil handbags. Very nice leather. Very wearable and chic designs.
    With so many designer knockoffs these days, whenever I see a woman carrying a Very expensive designer purse, unless I know them personally, I always assume the bag is a fake. Too much forgery for me to take the chance on getting a fake.

  9. I think there was some controversy earlier this year involving the Birkin bag, specifically the croc version. Jane Birkin did not like the way the skins were procured. I’m not sure about the details.

    Oddly enough I was at a local museum yesterday to see an exhibit on reptiles and there was a display about illegal/unethical trade of snakes and reptiles… including crocodile skins obtained for fashion wear.

    I think spending a chunk of money (but less than $100K USD!!!) on a purse makes sense if you love, love the bag and expect that it will last and last, after years of use and through the vagaries of fashion. Buying for snob appeal is really for the insecure, no?

  10. I have a Birkin. Two in fact, a black one like Jane’s and a taupe one. I’ve had the black one for nine years and it still looks brand new. The taupe one I’ve had for 8 years, and it also looks new. Although I was worried a lighter colour would show wear and tear, it hasn’t. I shove it full of stuff (like Jane’s above) when I travel, and keep it light for running around everyday. I’m not a girl who has a pink bag, a camel bag, a red bag, a navy bag, and a green bag… I just have two day bags and they get used to death. I also cannot be bothered moving all of my things from one handbag to another to match an outfit, so everything from my Oyster card to my lipstick stays in one neutral coloured bag for months on end.

    Just to dispel any Daily Mail type waiting-list myths, there isn’t a waiting list if you go to the flagship store in Paris. You ask for a bag, they make it, they send it to you when it is done. End of. No excessive markup like on non Hermes websites. It is cheaper to buy it new directly from the source than a ‘vintage’ one. Unless you are an oligarch and have a Birkin made in crocodile skin with diamond hardware, the basic Birkin in leather like mine isn’t much more expensive than other designer brands, like Gucci or Louis Vuitton bags in a similar size.

    1. Thanks for clearing this up, Lisa/The Sequinist (have to admit I am mortified by the Daily Mail comment!), Did you go to the Hérmes exhibition in London a few years ago? Watching the artisans working on the leather bags was wonderful.

      1. Haha, Alyson! I just meant it as a reference because the Daily Mail loves to sensationalise the waiting list and price aspect to generate faux outrage.

        I didn’t go to the exhibition in London, but would have loved to! xx

  11. I have to say, TNMA is leading me slowly into the land of more expensive bags. Recently got an Ally Capellino I saw on here , and now I’ve fallen in love with the dark pink Lulu Guiness one you are showing. How much is a Birken bag anyway ? I think if I could afford it I would be tempted.
    While on the subject I have been looking for a red leather bag, ladylike style, like our mothers would have carried. Anyone know where I can find one ?

    1. I think I might actually be turning into my mother, but anyway, William & son have some beautiful handbags – they are quite expensive but they look like they might last a good few years. Also, maybe try Smythson? I just cannot bring myself to spend the amount a Hermes bag costs. And, as the £ is now worthless, I’ll probably never do it.

  12. I love this subject – could talk about bags all day! I took possession this very morning of a navy blue APC Vienne bag. Had toyed with the ME+EM saddle bag but went with APC on the basis that I had a poor experience with ME +EM leather gloves last year ( colour rubbed off on first wear) which made me nervous, but mainly the APC has no logo on the front.
    I know someone with an orange Birkin habit – it’s definitely sending a message to the world, which is a bit similar to having a bright green lamborghini. I am guilty of owning a couple of discreet expensive bags – but I wouldn’t want people to think I’m the kind of person who buys into the Hermes thing, so I avoid it. Nice to see Mulberry dropping obvious logos on their saddle bags and the new satchel. One for Santa maybe.

  13. The Sequinist – stop! Just stop now! That is the sort of argument that really appeals to me – fewer, better, less hassle – just NO!

  14. I KNOW YOU WILLNOT BELIEVE THIS but I do not know about JANE and why a HANDBAG was named after HER!!!!!!
    GIVE ME THE SCOOP SO I am FINALLY in the KNOW!!!!!!!!
    P L E A S E.

  15. I have a fake Birkin and a fake Kelly and I love them both. The Birkin is a gorgeous green and the Kelly is orange. They get lots of comments and I can stuff loads into them – they still look smart. Thank the Maker for TK Maxx.

  16. Just to say how much I’ve enjoyed this article. I love that Jane Birkin’s is chock full of stuff. I carry too much stuff as well. I find her most endearing. Recently she said that when she looks in the mirror she thinks she looks fine but then puts on her glasses and wants to scream. Same for me. Thanks again x

  17. Only thing missing from Jane Birkin’s bag is a set of wheels! One day of lugging that behemoth around and I’d be scarfing down pain pills and booking an emergency neck/shoulder massage.

  18. Lovely article. Jane Birken is such a legend.
    I have just been lucky enough to go to Italy and bought a Campomaggi bag – not my usual style as this beautiful leather with studs and diamanté son it and I am definitely not a diamanté person . The combination of the leather and the studs is amazing and allows me to be instantly chic every day. I have never worn or carried anything that gets so many positive comments.
    Also check our Deadly Ponies – a New Zealand brand made here. Lovely and much cheaper than European designer brands.

  19. Lodis makes some lovely chic not shouty bags. I have the ‘Linda’ medium satchel in black with the red edges. I love the detachable strap that converts it to a shoulder or crossbody bag. For more casual wear, I’m carrying the Frye ‘Melissa’ crossbody bag in the wine color. I quite like it. I also like some bags by Patricia Nash and some by Skagen. A large/very noticeable logo on a bag (or on anything, really) is a deal-breaker for me.

  20. She’s just the coolest of the cool. And her bag is great – very HER. Although I once coveted a Birkin bag, now it doesn’t hold much appeal for me. Not that I would return it if I received one as a gift! But the idea of spending that much money on a bag – eh – no. Not when there are so many other chic bags out there and so many other ways to spend that money. Plus, I don’t feel the need to SHOUT my status to the world. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I’d rather give that money to rescue animals or hungry children or hurricane victims in Haiti. Seems kind of obscene to spend that much money on a status symbol, doesn’t it? Especially when there’s so much suffering in the world. I’m happy with my Marc by Marc Jacobs bag. Peace.

  21. I’m basic. I’m a Longchamp lover–I have three of Longchamp’s leather bags and they are all I need..well, Nat & Nin bags too. Anyway, I’ve never been crazy about the Birkin bag because it is just too structured for my personal liking. But after seeing Birkin’s Birkin, I admire her even more to take that bag and personalize it. Nice post!!!

  22. I have the bag I have always wanted (courtesy of ebay) – my beautiful, lovely and totally gorgeous Ally Capellino frame bag. I can’t stop looking at it!!!

  23. I’m kind of all over the place with my handbags. I have five, they’re all different colors and styles. But this post has me thinking that what I really should do is sell them all, then use the proceeds to buy a Birkin. I never considered this bag as functional until now, but damn if it doesn’t look exceptionally versatile—business-like, casual, it even works as a travel tote. Failing that, I should at least narrow it down to one good, simple black and one good tan or cognac and be done with it. I like Longchamp and Frank Clegg, which is made here in the States.

  24. A bit late to comment I know but I need some advice and you lot are my inspiration. I’ve been using leather rucksacks in a variety of colours made by Texier ( a French firm I believe), I find over the body bags irritating as they seem to swing and bob about on me, wrong hips I reckon. I quite fancy a change but once you’re used to having both hands free it almost feels like a backwards step to be encumbered again. How do you wonderful women manage?

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