Perhaps you’ve jumped through all the hoops, made all the purchases, and already own a Birkin or three – or maybe you just have an amazing relationship with that stellar Sales Associate (SA) you’ve really connected with. No matter how it happens, you find yourself hearing those magic words you’ve hoped for: your SA invites you to place a Special Order.
What is a Special Order at Hermès? Also known as an “SO”, or occasionally an “HSS” (for Horseshoe Stamp, the foil stamp unique to an SO), a Special Order is an order for a bag where the customer is allowed to select certain options and the bag is made specifically for that customer based on those specifications.
So you have finally reached this wonderful moment! Of course you are thrilled, but there may be a little panic, too. This is because there is usually not much time between an SA’s invitation to place an SO and the appointment to order it, and also because there are many options, but you may not know what those options are until you actually place the order.
No worries – PurseBlog is here to help! Here are the basics about the options you will likely have when placing your SO:
The Special Order Versions
Special Orders are most frequently placed for the Birkin, the Kelly and the Constance, but be aware that they are also available for the Kelly Sac à dépêches (briefcase), the Bolide, the Jige, and the Plume.
Here are the current versions for each SO option:
Special Order: Birkin
For the Birkin, there are five versions you can choose from.
Version 1: Looks like a regular Birkin. Interior, exterior and stitching are all the same color. People may choose this option if they are looking for a specific color and/or leather which is only available by SO.
Version 2: The entire exterior is one color, and the interior and the stitching are different colors.
Version 3: The entire exterior is one color, and the interior, piping and stitching are different colors.
Version 4: Same as Version 3, except the handles, straps and hanging key holder are also the same color as the interior and piping.
Version 5: Same as Version 4, except the exterior side panels (also called gussets) are also the same color as the interior.
Special Order: Kelly
For the Kelly Sellier (this has the stitching on the outside and a rigid appearance) there are three versions and for the Kelly Retourné (stitching on the inside, softer appearance) there are four versions.
Version 1 for Sellier and Retourné: Looks like a regular Kelly, except the stitching is a different color.
Version 2 for Sellier and Retourné: The entire exterior is one color, and the interior and the stitching are different colors.
Version 3 for Sellier: The front panel, back panel and interior is one color and the side panels, handle, handle loops, side straps, hanging key holder, shoulder strap and stitching are a different color.
Version 3 for Retourné: the entire exterior is one color, and the interior, piping and stitching are a different color.
Version 4 for Retourné: The front panel, back panel and interior is one color and the piping, side panels, handle, handle loops, side straps, hanging key holder, shoulder strap and stitching are a different color.
Special Order: Constance
For the Constance there are two versions.
Version 1: Looks like a regular Constance, except the stitching is a different color.
Version 2: The entire exterior is one color, and the interior and the stitching are different colors.
Two Things to Note for Birkin and Kelly Orders:
1. For any version where you are choosing a stitching color, the stitching choice comes from a separate list and can always be a different color from the interior and/or exterior. This is for the stitching only. If you are choosing a version with differently-colored exterior parts (for example, the piping), those parts will all match the interior color and contrast with the exterior; and
2. If you choose a different color interior, the inside of the key holder will also match the interior color.
The Special Order Options
Once you have decided what bag and version you want, you need to select your colors, leather, stitching and hardware.
Special Order Hardware
Bags can usually be ordered with the following: palladium, which is a silver color (PHW), brushed palladium (BPHW), gold (GHW), brushed gold (BGHW) or permabrass, which is paler than GHW. Right now, rose gold (RGHW) is only available for the Constance.
Special Order Leather and Colors
Hermès produces lists of color and leather options annually, starting with the Autumn/Winter season of a given year and continuing through the Spring/Summer of the following year.
The first list is exterior colors. It consists of each type of exterior leather being offered, and underneath each leather is a sub-list of the colors being offered for that particular leather. So, the colors available for epsom will not be the same as the colors available for togo, or for chevre, etc., as each leather has its own color choices.
Given the leather and color options, you may then need to decide what your priority is. If you must have a particular color, you have to see what leathers it will be available in, or vice versa. To complicate things a little, not all leathers may be available for all bags; for example, chevre is only used for smaller bags, usually 25cm and 30cm Birkins and 25 and 28cm Kellys, and you may not know what sizes Hermès is allowing for any given season until your appointment.
After the exterior lists, there is a second list for interior colors. Hermès nearly always makes its interiors from chevre leather, so there are no leather options here, only colors. However – and this is where my brain actually starts to hurt a little, and we need to break out the Venn Diagrams – if you are ordering anything other than a Version 1 or 2 bag (either all one color, or different exterior, interior and stitching), you need to pay close attention here, because the interior color that you choose from this second list will also be your color choice for the gussets, piping, straps, etc, depending on your version – and since those parts are on the exterior of the bag, the color you choose from this interior list must also be on the color sub-list for the exterior leather you chose, back on the first list.
Confused? To explain: let’s say you have chosen to order a Birkin in Version 3, where the exterior is one color and the interior and piping are another color. Togo leather is your priority and you have chosen Notorious Pink from the togo list as your exterior color. You then look through the interior list and Blue Lagoon is on it. Because in this version the piping is also done in the same color as the interior, Blue Lagoon must also be on the exterior leather sub-list for togo if you want to order it as your interior color. Unfortunately, it’s not. You can switch your choice to epsom because it has both Notorious Pink and Blue Lagoon available for the exterior, or choose one of the colors that are on both the togo and interior lists: Mellow Yellow, Cloudy Gray, or Purple Paradise. Alternatively, if you must have those colors in togo, you can choose Version 2 instead and keep the piping the same as the exterior.
Special Order Stitching
Finally, there is a third list for stitching. Generally, you can select any color from this list (this is “contrast stitching”, as it contrasts with the exterior). You can also choose to keep the stitching the same as the exterior color. Please be sure to note exactly how you want the stitching: usually if you select simple “contrast stitching” or select a stitch color very similar to the interior, the craftsperson will use that stitch color for the exterior and then stitch the interior with a color similar to the exterior, so that the stitch will contrast on both the outside and the inside of the bag. You should note if you want the same stitch color throughout.
The Special Order Process
Do as much prep work as you can beforehand. At your appointment you will be presented with the versions, options and lists, but if you are not prepared (ok, even if you are prepared) it can be overwhelming. The process can be confusing, so that advance research is helpful. The PurseForum is an excellent resource (shameless plug, but it really is!), but also do an internet search and take screenshots of SOs that you like. Understand that even with all your planning, at your appointment you may be given different choices from what you had prepared for, so be ready to roll with it.
At your appointment you will meet with your SA, who will use a paper form to take down the details of your order. There may or may not be a complete box of leather swatches available showing how each color appears in each leather offered, but there are usually enough swatches to get a good idea of what you are ordering. There are usually also samples of the various hardware and the stitching options. Take your time and enjoy the moment! After you are done, your SA will send your details to Paris, and your order will be entered into the system. Once your order is in the system (your SA can confirm this, usually about a week after your appointment), it is deemed “accepted” by Hermès unless you are notified otherwise. Then it’s just a matter of waiting.
Even after all of this your SO may still not arrive according to plan. Orders can take a very long time; can be made by the craftsperson with altered specifications; or your SO may even be cancelled. The average wait time is usually a year, and it may take less time, but it can also take two years or more. Usually if an order is rejected, or it arrives with incorrect specifications that you find unacceptable – and yes, you can reject an SO, there is never an obligation to purchase it – you are given the option to place another order. It’s really helpful to just think of this as something fun and enjoyable which may or may not actually work out; or, as one SA has suggested, place the order and then try to forget about it. That is a good way to deal with the wait, and it allows you to focus on other H obsessions!
Examples of Special Order Bags
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