New V&A exhibition to put first ever Birkin bag on display

The first-ever Hermès Birkin handbag and Mulberry accessories worn by models Kate Moss and Alexa Chung will be displayed as part of a new blockbuster fashion exhibition at the V&A.

Almost 300 accessories will feature in Bags: Inside Out, one of the largest exhibitions in UK history dedicated to handbags.

From designer handbags to vanity cases and even military rucksacks created by brands such as Hermès, Mulberry and Fendi, the show will explore the British fascination with accessories when it opens on November 21.

The Hermès Birkin bag was inspired by actress and singer Jane Birkin, who couldn’t find a travel bag suitable to carry all she needed to tend to her young child when on the move.

Cult handbag: the original Jane Birkin bag (Les 3 marches de Catherine B)

She met former executive chairman of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight from Paris to London in the Eighties and he sketched what would become the Birkin, one of the cult handbags of the 20th Century, there and then.

The first Birkin bag from 1984 that belonged to the star will feature in the exhibition. It bears her initials and is well used, complete with stickers she attached to the bag.

Other items will include the Mulberry Bayswater which was launched in 2003. Designed by Nicholas Knightly, supermodel Moss was one of the celebrity fans of the bag – with one previously owned by her featuring in the exhibition.

Launched in 2010, the Mulberry Alexa, which was inspired by Chung and quickly became the “It Bag” of the naughties, is also in the show.

Celebrity choice: the exhibitition will also feature the Mulberry Bayswater; fans included Kate Moss (Beretta/Sims/Shutterstock)

A large embroidered purse used to protect the silver matrix of Elizabeth I’s Great Seal of England, a gas mask bag owned by Queen Mary during the Second World War and Winston Churchill’s red despatch box also feature, as does the Fendi Baguette bag worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City.

Lucia Savi, Curator of Bags: Inside Out at the V&A said: “The Birkin is one of the most sought-after and celebrated handbags of the 20th and 21th century. We are thrilled that we will display the very first piece made for Jane Birkin which started this long-lasting fascination.”

Lucia Savi added: “The Bayswater and Alexa bags are two of Mulberry’s most recognisable and timeless designs. We are delighted to include these bags in the exhibition, owned by Kate Moss and Alexa Chung.”

Tickets for the free exhibition are on sale from today (September 15).

From today, the museum will also be open five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday as the museum continues its re-opening following the pandemic.

The exhibition is the latest in the V&A’s series of fashion exhibitions and follows major retrospectives on Mary Quant, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen.


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