There are no other handbags that can compare to the Birkin and Kelly bags from Hermes in terms of craftsmanship, status, and quality. Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, and NeNe Leakes, just to name a few, are often seen with their Hermes bags. They have even had small roles in TV shows like “Sex and the City” and movies like “Blue Jasmin” by Woody Allen. Because of the huge rise in demand for these famous bags, thousands of women are looking for their first Hermes.
But how do you begin? How exactly do you buy a Birkin or Kelly? What should you choose for style, skin, and color? Is it better to look for a brand-new bag or one that has already been used? When you decide to buy your first Birkin, you may have all of these questions and more. This Hermes Insights guide was made to answer the most common questions asked by first-time buyers. It will help you find the perfect bag.
What’s so great about Hermès bags?
Even if you don’t want to go through the hard, often years-long process of getting a Birkin, you can’t deny that the Birkin and the Kelly bag are huge around the world. But what is so special about Hermès bags that people all over the world want to know how to buy one?
The leather used to make Hermès bags is of the highest quality, and each bag is made by hand. Each Birkin or Kelly bag is cut, sewn, and polished by a single artisan who has been trained by the Hermès design house for at least five years. The work is very hard, but the end result is just beautiful.
But the quality of Hermès bags isn’t the only thing that makes them so popular. Hermès only makes a certain number of new Birkin and Kelly bags each year. Also, no one knows how many Hermès bags are made, what colors, leathers, or styles they come in, or when and where they might be shipped. Even the Sales Manager (SM) and Sales Associates (SA) at any Hermès store don’t know when shipments are coming or what’s in them until the designer bags arrive at the store. This is for security reasons.
The Hermès Birkin bag is the most sought-after luxury bag because it is so hard to get and has a very romantic story behind it.
Is there a list of people who want to buy a Birkin?
Once upon a time, there was a long list of people (up to six years) who wanted to buy a Birkin or Kelly bag. When you (finally) got a call to buy a luxury bag, it might not have been in the color, leather, hardware, or size you asked for. But bad luck for the woman who didn’t give up until she got the bag she really wanted. She probably wouldn’t get another chance.
The Hermès Birkin Bag waiting list was eventually canceled because it was seen as “unfair.” Some SAs may still offer to put your name on a waiting list for the Birkin bag of your dreams, but this is mostly just a nice thing to do and doesn’t really mean anything. Even stars and the most fashionable people have trouble getting a Birkin this way.
How to buy a Birkin or Kelly from Hermes
First of all, how exactly do you buy a Birkin or Kelly bag? Unfortunately, getting a Hermes bag isn’t easy for 99 percent of the women who want one. You can’t just walk into a Hermes boutique, pick out a Birkin or Kelly bag off the shelf, and pay for it at the cash register. Hermes has very strict rules about who can buy one of their well-known bags. There are long waiting lists that can take up to six years to get to the front of. Even getting on the waiting list is hard because customers are ranked by how much they have bought and how well they know the company. Because of this, there is no guarantee that you will even be able to get on the waiting list.
Most first-time buyers instead choose to go through an auction house or a reputable consignment company. Auction houses are the riskier choice because many buyers pay more for what they buy there. Most first-time buyers choose to buy from a trusted consignment company, where they can find both new and used Hermes bags for a set price. When buying your first Hermes item, the best and safest thing to do is to buy it on the secondary market.
New Hermes bags vs. Used Hermes bags
Since it’s hard to get a Hermes bag directly from the company, the choice of whether to buy a new or used bag is often made for you. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find new Birkins and Kellys at auctions or on consignment sites. Because Hermes bags have the potential to be a good investment, there is a market where people buy new Hermes bags just to sell them. These bags are sold at auction or on the secondary market. They are in perfect shape and are the same as buying a brand-new bag from Hermes.
Both new and used Hermes bags have their pros and cons. Many women will buy a new Hermes bag as their first bag because they think it is better than a used bag in many ways. But used Hermes bags are a good option because Birkins and Kellys are so unique, with things like limited edition colors and skins that are no longer made. They can also handle most wear and tear and stay in style for a long time. We talked about the pros and cons of buying a new Hermes handbag vs. a used one a few weeks ago, and you can read about it here.
How to choose a Hermes bag
Now that you know exactly how you want to buy your first Hermes handbag and have thought about both new and used bags, you are ready to go shopping! But you want to make sure you get a good deal, a handbag of good quality, and one that goes with your wardrobe. Here are some suggestions to help you do that:
When looking for a good deal on a Hermes bag, many women look on the secondary market. When looking at pre-owned Hermes bags, the condition is the most important thing to think about. At Vascara, we use a condition guide to help our clients figure out how well each bag is in shape. Depending on general wear and tear, scratches, the condition of the leather and skin, and other factors, bags are rated as either “perfect,” “excellent,” “very good,” “good,” or “fair.” When you look at the bag’s pictures and the condition guide together, you can get a good idea of how the bag looks before you buy it.
Many first-time buyers will choose safe colors like black, beige, gold, or brown that will go with everything in their closet. But one thing that makes Hermes handbags stand out is that they come in many different colors, many of which are unique to Hermes. A black Birkin might go with more of your clothes, but a bright pink or red one will stand out more and be harder to find elsewhere. It will also be worth more when you decide to upgrade in the future. Check out our guide to colors here.
When you buy a Hermes bag, you need to know a lot about leather. Each type of leather has its own unique qualities, and different levels of care are needed for each type. Some standard leathers, like Clemence and Togo, have a rough surface to keep them from getting scratched and to protect them from general wear and tear. Exotic skins like crocodile, alligator, lizard, snake, and ostrich are hard to care for, but they look a lot better than regular skins. Here is where you can find our guide to leather and skin.
Where you can get a Birkin
The bigger question now is where you can buy a Birkin bag.
You can get to your end goal in two very different ways: at a Hermès store or from a trusted independent dealer. First, if you like the thrill of the hunt, let’s make a plan.
On the Hermès site, you can’t buy a Birkin bag. You should instead go to one of the many Hermès shops around the world. Don’t expect to see any Birkin bags for sale when you walk into the store. If you are lucky enough to find a Birkin on the premises and the SA thinks you deserve it, you will be taken into a private room. A gloved SA will come out from the back with a glass of champagne and a single bag. There might be two or three bags to choose from if you’re very lucky.
Can you order a Birkin bag from the store if they don’t have any in stock? No. You can’t order a Birkin bag in the size, color, leather, and hardware you want unless you are a Hermès VIP who has been personally invited to order a Horseshoe Stamp bag. Long-time customers can ask their SAs for a certain Birkin, but most requests aren’t met or take years to be met.
How to buy a Hermès bag at a Hermès shop
All of this starts with getting to know a certain Hermès Sales Associate. With a SA on your side, you can do a lot of things. When the next shipment comes in, you might be told. Over time, if you and your SA get along really well, she might even put a hold on a Birkin bag for you.
When you walk into a store, the first thing you need to do is find a Sales Associate who is ready and willing to help you. If possible, a friend or family member who knows one will introduce you to them. Otherwise, it’s a bit random and could affect whether or not you can buy a Birkin in the future.
Make sure you:
- Dress well when you go to the store, if possible in Hermès.
- Show that you know about the whole Hermès line and the Birkin in particular.
- Buy from the same Hermès store, if possible with the same SA.
- Set up a record of what you’ve bought (also called a “profile”). Even though you don’t have to buy something every time you go, building up a history of purchases is important if you want to buy a Birkin bag one day.
- Buy a wide range of Hermès items so it doesn’t look like you’re only interested in a Birkin bag. Think about buying things like scarves, belts, jewelry, ready-to-wear clothes, makeup, etc.
- Once you have shown your love for the whole Hermès brand by making many, many purchases in many different departments, you are sure to have a happy SA, but you may not get a Birkin bag. But if you spend a cool six figures or more at a Hermès store, you may be able to get some bags that are usually only for VIPs.
Even if you figure out how to buy a Birkin, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the bag of your dreams. It might not be the size, color, or type of leather you wanted.
If you want to build a collection of Hermès handbags, you need to keep building your relationship with your SA by visiting and buying from them often. Building that collection will take time since Hermès has a strict “quota” that limits buyers to no more than two high-end bags per year.
If you like the thrill of the hunt, a Hermès store is a great place to buy a Birkin or Kelly bag.