In general, it's not hard to buy designer bags as long as you have some way to pay for them. Fashion goes to great lengths to put on airs of exclusivity and rarity, but in reality, most of them have to sell a lot of consumer-friendly products in order to stay profitable. For almost all of them, actual clothes don't cut it, so bags, shoes and other accessories are incredibly important, and that means they have to be available to buy in large quantities. The most famous exception to this rule is Hermès, whose most famous handbag—the Birkin—is as well known for its scarcity as it is for its appearance. How much of that is legend, though, and how much is reality?
The tales of years-long wait lists are well worn at this point, and they deserve an update. To do that, we asked members of our Hermès subform at our PurseForum to share with us the stories of how they acquired their first Birkins. We've collected our favorites below, edited for length and clarity; you can read all of the public submissions on the PurseForum.
Member Ang-Lin was in the right place at the right time, on a business trip far from home:
I got my designer handbag addiction from my mom, but she claimed that I took it to another level. That said, I have always been going for designers and styles that I won't see on the discount rack (or, in this day and age, flash sale websites). So I started with the Vuittons when I was in college, slowly building up a collection that, after about six years, got slowly phased out and replaced by Chanel. I stuck to the classics: the 2.55, the Classic Flaps, and then the Boy. Probably got them in every size and different leather/hardware combination.
Around seven years ago, few Hermès pieces started creeping into my collection. I used to only buy them whenever I was in Europe because of the VAT refund, but then I realized that if I want to get a Birkin or a Kelly, that's not the way to do it. So I started buying in my home country and scored a Kelly first (K28 retourne Togo in etoupe).
That same year, I was on a business trip and I had to wait for my boss, whose flight was delayed. I found out that right around there corner from my hotel was a Hermès boutique. It was a Tuesday morning and the store was empty. I started looking around and the SA asked if I was looking fort anything specific. I casually mentioned I wouldn't mind a Birkin, and the store wasn't my home store, they asked for my name. I saw the SA discreetly punching something in the computer, probably looking up my purchase history. Then she's said she might have something for me and came out shortly after with a big orange box of an orange 35cm Birkin.
Member doloresmia took advantage of favorable economic conditions in the resale market to score her first Birkin:
I was in my late thirties when I realized I loved the Birkin. It started because my lovely husband stated someone like me should have one. Before then I thought the bag too stuffy - this was before instagram stars, way before. Of course if he who loves me best loved the bag, I started to consider it. Like the dork that I am, I did a lot of research online and found tPF!
I obsessed on a barenia toile Birkin: so chic and classic. They were only to be had from resellers and eBay. The bag was so expensive though! I stalked the internet for a long time—the anticipation and hope for the right bag at the right price was exquisite pain.
Finally, the market crashed in 2008 and I found a beautiful pre-loved bag at a decent price. (It is all relative, right?) The lovely tPF ladies authenticated her, and with a couple clicks of the mouse, she was MINE!Many bags later, I don’t forget my first.
Alternately, member ODEDIHAIMS began buying bags (and eventually her Birkin) as retail therapy during a difficult transition.
I began buying designer bags when my husband and I separated. I used it as therapy and also as a FU to him because he never wanted me to buy any. I found tPF and began reading about everything. I started with LV canvas, then to Chanel and Dior, then to Hermès as my final divorce present. I bought a Pico the day after my divorce from the boutique; it was all I could get offered of the items I wanted. But I really had fallen hard for the saddle leathers from reading about them here, and I knew they would be almost impossible to get new. I had seen a bag on eBay from Docride and asked her about it. She talked me out of that one and into a Kelly Sellier 28. I was over the moon when it arrived.
After a few months, I bought my first Birkin from her, a 30. I had never even held a Birkin before but she and I spoke quite a bit and she made me comfortable to order it. I couldn't be happier. Since then, I've added from the boutique and from resale. It's been quite a ride. My collection is pretty complete, and I no longer need therapy.
Member thelucky1 is true to her name, because she just walked into Hermès having never made a purchase and walked out with a Birkin:
Since buying my first Birkin 3 years ago, I've come to realize how lucky I was in getting it as a walk-in with no purchase history. My husband and I were out shopping one day and popped into our local Hermès boutique to browse one busy Saturday afternoon. Neither of us had any history with the store, and it took a while before anyone was even free to help us. I picked out a scarf, and when our SA asked if there was anything else she could help us with, I mentioned that I was interested in a Birkin.
She asked if we were local (we are!) and asked what size and color I was interested in; luckily, I'd done my research! At first, she said that she didn't think there was anything available, but then when ringing us up, asked casually if I would be open to orange, which was definitely on my list, since I wanted a pop color for my first bag. Five minutes later, we were in the back unboxing my beautiful Feu 35, and the rest is history!
Member Kitty S. went to Hermès on a special day and got her wish granted:
A few years ago, I was heading to Paris for work and thought I’d try my luck to get a Birkin or Kelly there. Before the trip, I did my research on how to get one and ended up gathering most of my intel on tPF! I learned the pros and cons of different H stores in Paris, how to ask a SA for a Birkin or Kelly, and what color/leather/size/HW combo my heart desired. I was offered a 32cm Kelly on my first try and came home happily with the beautiful memento.
After that, I naively thought that my life would be complete if I could just have one Birkin. So I found a local SA and started a relationship. I read somewhere on tPF that celebrating your birthday is a good reason to ask your SA for a Birkin. So I tried that and got my birthday Birkin indeed! It all sounds like a fairy tale coming true, except that I didn’t realize at the time that there is simply no stopping at ONE Birkin.
Like thousands of shoppers dream to do every year, member tabbi001 scored her Birkin on a Parisian vacation:
I was in love with bags ever since I was in college, but I was obsessed with other brands. It was only last year when I walked into my home store for the first time and inquired about bags. After two months, I got my first Kelly and was ecstatic. It was so beautiful and I loved it. A month after was our family trip to Europe, and I decided to try my luck in Paris.
I have been reading stories, both horror and happy endings, from the Paris Hermès shopping thread and was very apprehensive. I was hoping for my 1st Birkin to come from FSH as I feel that it would be very special. Lo and behold, my wish was granted and I came home with my 1st Birkin. There were tears of joy when I saw it and I could all but hug my SA. It was an extremely magical feeling, like Disneyland for adults.
Member Stansy, on the other hand, had the call for her Birkin come at a whirlwind time in her life:
I was pretty shy walking into Hermès to ask for a Birkin, but finally I took the plunge and went to H with my husband. So far I only had two scarves and a clover leather charm, but I had been admiring the brand for years; I used to be a ballet dancer, and the studio was on top of an H store, so I always got to look at the goods there!
Unfortunately when placing the wish for a Birkin I knew exactly what I wanted, so I never got to play with the sample bags for size or the leather samples for leather type and color. I asked for a 35cm Birkin in gold togo with gold hardware. Fast forward one year, I got THE call from my boutique. I honestly had completely forgotten about the bag as we were young parents, and I was sitting at the doctor's office with my four-month-old daughter, who had developed a serious condition. My mind was elsewhere, not with luxury items!
However, when my husband got home in the evening, I told him that I had some good news and some bad news: my bag is ready for pick-up, and it´s gonna be expensive! So we went to the store the next Saturday, and I got the bag. It was love at first sight, the SA was super-sweet and we made jokes about my daughter being the next customer generation.
Ultimately, though, Madam Bijoux is right:
My first Birkin (35 swift Bleu de Prusse, GHW) was in the store window. No amount of planning can substitute for pure luck.