When Hermès Met Jane Birkin…
The year was 1981. Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas and Jane Birkin were seated next to each other on a flight from Paris to London. Upon placing her straw bag into the overhead compartment on the plane, all of Birkin’s contents fell to floor. Birkin lamented, “it has been difficult to find a leather weekend bag [that] she liked.” Three years later, Dumas created a black supple leather bag for her: the Birkin bag.
When Jane Met PETA…
Fast forward to 2015, Jane Birkin wants her name off the all time crocodile “it bag” after viewing a video provided by PETA on the mistreatment of crocodiles allegedly used to make the Birkin Croco. In fact, in a statement released to Agency France-Presse, Birkin is asking Hermes to “debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place.”
In response, Hermès denied that the farm featured in the PETA video belongs to them or that the skins from the farm are used to make their Birkin bags. However, Hermès revealed that an investigation is underway at the Texas farm at issue.
Can Birkin Remove Her Name From the Birkin Bag?
Conducting a United States trademark registration search shows that Hermes first filed to trademark “Birkin” on February 17, 2004. Under goods and services, Birkin is registered for leather or imitation leather goods (namely, bags). Further, the Birkin shoulder (standard character mark) was registered on July 7, 2009. Jane Birkin would likely struggle to compel Hermes to “debaptize” the bag because Hermès has trademarked the term “Birkin” with leather goods and Jane has not.
Nevertheless, even with the term Birkin trademarked, the relationship between Jane and Hermes leads to more questions than answers. Did Jane formally license the use of her name? Is Jane considered an employee of the fashion company? Is there a hard copy contract she signed or an oral agreement between Hermès and Jane?
According to The Guardian, “Birkin has said that Hermès gives her around [$33030.75] a year, which she donates to charity.”
What should happen when a muse and a fashion company have a falling out? Fashion Law Mapping will continue to monitor this story. Leave a comment below!