What are your thoughts on the Birkin bag?
They’re a very interesting design, in my view. Not the most practical of bags and certainly very simple. I respond to that. I wish it were more inconspicuous, and it otherwise would be, if not for the cultural hype around it.
The cultural hype is also very interesting to me. Recently, an artist fed a crocodile a Birkin—cheekily, I admit. A few weeks after this happen, I saw that NeNe Leakes had decorated her Birkin with her catchphrases from The Real Housewives; the person who posted the Instagram screenshot claimed that she had defaced an art piece. This was funny to me, in light of the fact that an artist somewhere was destroying a Birkin as an art piece. What struck me is that both the Tumblr soapbox tastemaker and the artist are considering the Birkin as a product that must be protected. The thrust of the artist’s crocodile piece is precisely this idea: because the culture around the Birkin demands that it be protected, in the name of art, it must be destroyed. The Tumblr commentator rests on the first clause of this argument.
It has an incredible power, more so than probably any other accessory in fashion…You can maybe name a class of accessories, like stilettos or glasses, which have special symbolic power. But no singular item wields as much power as a Birkin. I think the power of the Birkin provokes people to enact violence against it (and to take up positions in its defense). And real, meaningful violence. The Birkin is certainly, to my mind, a feminized object, which goes along with its status as an object of taste. The idea of feeding it to a crocodile, painting it, setting it aflame…all those would cause us to think that we are witnessing victimization or cruelty. It’s an object that can call us to its defense, and there are not very many of those in a culture of disposable fashion.