By Lauren Lippert
The Birkin Bag is easily one of the most iconic bags to ever exist because of its price and its rarity. To own a Birkin Bag means you’ve achieved status unlike no other because the process to purchase one is difficult in itself. Originally created in 1981, by Paris-based actress Jane Birkin. The Birkin Bag was first created on an airplane when she sat next to the chief executive of designer brand Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas.
Jane Birkin with the first Birkin ever created, photo by Mike Daines/ Shutterstock
While there are many versions of this story, the creation of the unique bag stems from when Birkin’s diary fell out of her purse and onto the airplane floor. Dumas, kindly suggested that she find a bag with pockets. This helped fuel Birkin’s historic declaration that an Hermès large bag suitable to carry all-woman belongings should be created. Dumas loved the idea and immediately pulled out a pencil and an airplane sick bag and began to sketch what would become the classic Birkin Bag. Debuted by both Hermès and Birkin in 1984, the Birkin Bag serves as one of the most priceless fashion bags to ever exist.
With that being said, artist and professor at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Barbara Segal took inspiration from the classic Hermès Birkin Bag to create a piece of artwork unlike no other. Segal hand-carves the bag into stone.
She originally got into product-making models in 1980 for the company Avon Cosmetics. According to the interview she did with the New York Post, she said that she learned how to design perfume bottles out of stone and thought that she could do the same with a striped shirt. Then she focused on handbags starting with Chanel and then finally the Hermès iconic tote.
“I’m bringing attention to the fact of how important this symbol is in current civilization, in current society. Idols were made from stone, and this is an idol,” Segal said. “Somebody wrote that basically, the Birkin is the epitome of an ultra-luxury accessory. When you walk out on the street with a Birkin on your hand it’s sort of like a declaration of power.”
According to her website, Segal has trained in New York, Paris, and Italy, learning about carving and mold making. It was her travels to Europe that helped inspire her to incorporate European influences into her sculpting; specifically the architecture of the renaissance churches.
On average, it takes Segal three months to finish her creation and it weighs 100 pounds. She typically produces seven pieces per year. Segal’s biggest challenge is creating this piece of art without using an actual Birkin to use as a reference. Due to its exclusivity and price, as a professor, she wasn’t able to get a hold of a Birkin herself. Instead, she has resorted to referencing the internet for dimensions and high-res photos for details.
True to size, her “bags” have precise detailing imitating the tote’s signature leather folds, tight stitching, and even the lock, which is carved from the same stone as the bag. It’s then painted a metallic color.
She gets her materials from all around the world, some including the Grand Canyon, Italy, and regions in Iraq. In terms of carving into the stone itself, Segal uses traditional carving tools such as a chisel and stone cutters. Segal also incorporates rubies and other precious stones to embellish the belts on the Birkin sculptures.
A Birkin ranges from $12,000 to $200,000 depending on its materials and customization, Segal has sold her “bags” ranging from $45,000 to $65,000, significantly cheap then the actual one.
Due to its uniqueness, Segal’s bags have been gaining popularity on Instagram. Because of this, galleries worldwide have reached out to her offering their services. Whether it be a Birkin Bag, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton, it’s evident that Barbara Segal is carving her way into the fashion scene.