With the latest re-imagining of the Birkin, Hermès shows that it need not take itself too seriously
It’s delightful to see that Hermès does not treat its signature Birkin bags too preciously—at least not to the point that they can’t be reimagined or delineated with artistic humour. On their official Instagram recently, Hermès posted images of their “iconic” bag dreamed up by the American artist/designer/publisher Ben Denzer, using vegetables and fruit—so distant from exotic skins Hermès is known for (the Nile crocodile hide that is the ‘Himalayan’ style, for example). Birkin acolytes (Jamie Chua?) may frown at this making of food porn out of their prized handbag grail(s), but the French house urged followers and viewers in their IG comment to “enjoy the detour as classic Hermès bags inspire art good enough to eat”.
Edible Birkin is surely a diversion. Who wouldn’t be drawn to food although, admittedly, not everyone is to vegetables and fruit, surely the lower end of the spectrum of coverings that can be imagined on what is often considered the most expensive bag in the world. To make the veggie versions even more intriguing, Mr Denzer did not use expensive greens (or even the heirloom variety); he didn’t succumb to the dearest, such as hop shoots, reportedly costing US$426 per pound (or 0.45kg). Rather he used market vegetables—shoots and cruciferous—and fruits (yes, the cucumber is one!). And there is considerable construction and engineering in his work. He didn’t merely plonk lemon slices or orange peel on illustrations and call them art!
To other heritage luxury brands (Chanel?), this exercise that could have been a Project Runway challenge might be considered downgrading, even desecration, but Hermès took it all rather lightly. It didn’t seem they commissioned Mr Denzer to make the bags, but it did appear that Hermès found the work charming and image-enhancing, enough for them to share it on IG, where the brand does post fun images not necessarily tied to their own already-rather-against-the-grain advertising. If we should not take fashion too seriously, neither should we with bags—they’re serious enough. Seriously expensive.