One of the first articles I wrote for PurseBlog was an overview of Hermès’ Special Order process. 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 their chosen specifications. Because there have been numerous changes to this process – and because on PurseForm people are always asking questions about this process – I figured it was time for a thorough update.
I am lucky to have been able to place four special orders over the years with my fabulous Sales Associate (“SA”). Recently, although I was not due for an SO offer for a while yet – my boutique has prioritized offering them to newer customers who have not previously had the opportunity to place one yet, and I’m fine with that, as there is so much to love (and many colors left on my list!) – when the new Special Order colors were announced, even my SA couldn’t deny that a Rose Sakura bag just needed to be in my collection. And so this October I once again experienced the fun and (let’s be honest) confusion of placing a Special Order request at Hermès.
Placing an SO is indeed the stuff of fantasy, and in your mind, of course, it sounds easy and fun, like Veruca Salt pointing at whatever she wants and shouting “I want it NOW!”: but the fantasy is, of course, not the reality. We are not simple-minded like Veruca Salt. For most people, the process involves not just a little hand-wringing; first, you are excited at the idea of getting to place the order. Then, you realize there are many options, and many decisions have to be made. Then, when it (finally!) arrives (after who knows how long?) – will you love it?
Let’s start with the basics first.
Each boutique is allowed a certain number of SOs for any given year. This is based on the size and sales of the boutique. Some of the smaller boutiques many not get any SO allotments at all. The boutiques which do get them will each divide their allocation differently, often among their SAs, who will then each select the customers they will offer those allotments to. Sometimes this is done by (or in consultation with) the Store Manager (SM).
In the past, SO season was twice a year, fall and spring. The season lasted a few months each time, generally with each boutique having a more limited time within the season to place their orders. Each of these seasons had their own lists of what was being offered, among bags, leather, hardware and color options. Gradually this has changed so that there is now only one SO season per year, starting in the Fall and running through late Spring (generally September through May). There is only one set of options that will run through the season, although it should be noted that as the SO season progresses, certain options (usually very popular colors, or sometimes leather options such as making a Sellier Kelly with togo leather) may at any time cease to be accepted. This is rare, but it happens.
Special Orders are most frequently placed for the Birkin, the Kelly and the Constance; however, this is the current list of all bags that may be ordered:
- Birkin Sellier (this is the new, more structured version of the Birkin)
- Kelly II Retourné
- Kelly Sellier
- Kelly Sellier Mini (a/k/a “Mini Kelly” or “Mini Kelly II”)
- Kellyado II (the backpack version of the Kelly)
- Kelly Danse II (the fanny pack version of the Kelly)*
- Kellymini (more popularly known as the Kelly Pochette)*
- Picotin Lock
- Jigé Elan
- Mosaïque au 24*
- Kelly Dépêches Pochette
- Kelly Dépêches Porte Doc
- Sac Á Dépêches Light
- Sac Á Dépêches
- Victoria Light*
(an * indicates that these bag options are new for the 2021-2022 Special Order season)
It’s quite a list, isn’t it? Although as stated, most of the orders are for some version of the B/K/C triumvirate, it’s nice to see wider options (even I had to look up the Cabavertige, which I had never previously heard of), and a nice selection from the men’s department as well (I personally love the Kelly Dépêches Pochette as the perfect option for just about anyone).
Special Order Color Placement
While there is a wide variety of options as far as bags go, there are increased limits for color placement. Generally there are three color options:
The entire bag is one color, both inside and out, and a contrasting color stitch is required.
One color is for the exterior (color 1) and another is for the interior (color 2). The stitching may match one or both of the exterior/interior colors or can be a completely different color from the stitching list. Stitching that matches the leather colors chosen can be paired with the color it matches or inverse/contrast.
A bicolor exterior. The “exterior” color (color 1) is usually the front and back panels of the bag, and the “interior” color (color 2) is the handles, sangles, strap (if any), side panels, piping, clochette, and interior. Stitching options as with Verso above.
New Color Placement: “Casque”
New for this season there is also the multi-paneled “Casaque” option for Sellier Birkins and Sellier Kellys only.
For the Sellier Birkin there are four panels on the front; color 1 is the top left half of the flap, the bottom right half of the front of the bag, the left gusset and the right side strap, and color 2 is the top right half of the flap, the bottom left half of the front of the bag, the right half of the bag, the right gusset and the left side strap. The lining and the inside flap may also be a third color (this is not entirely clear yet, however the Casaque bags I have seen have a bicolor exterior and a third color for the interior).
For the Sellier Kelly, color 2 is the left side of the flap and front, the left side of the back, the left gusset, the left side strap, and the body of the clochette. The underside of the handle and underside of the strap may also be a third color.
Those are the versions generally, with these differences:
Birkin, Birkin Sellier: as described above.
Kelly II Retourné, Kelly Sellier, Kelly Sellier Mini: for the Multico version, the exterior color is also the interior color; color 2 is used just on the outside, for the handle, sangles, straps, side panels, piping, and clochette.
KellyAdo II: for the Multico version, the exterior color is also the interior color; color 2 is used just for the sangles and straps.
Kelly Danse II, Kellycut, Kelly Dépêches Pochette and Kelly Dépêches Porte Doc: for the Verso and Multico versions, color 2 is used for the interior below the inside of the front flap. For the Multico version, color 2 is also used for the sangles and strap/handle.
Kellymini: for the Verso and Multico versions, color 2 is used for the entire interior, including the interior side of the front flap. For the Multico version, color 2 is also used for the sangles and handle.
Constance: for the Multico version, color 2 is only used for the H closure.
24/24: for the Verso version, color 2 is used just for the interior below the flap. For the Multico version, color 2 is only used for both the exterior and interior sides of the flap.
Bolide: for the Multico version, color 2 is used solely for the leather panels at the top half of the bag.
Lindy: for the Multico version, color 2 is used for the handles and sangles only.
Picotin Lock: for the Verso version, color 2 is used for the underside of the handles. For the Multico version, color 2 is used for the underside of the handles and the lock strap.
Jigé Elan: for the Multico version, color 2 is used for the H, the closure strap, and the interior.
Roulis: for the Multico version, color 2 is used for the entire top panel piece (which extends to approximately the top third of the back of the bag) and the strap.
Verrou: for the Verso version, color 2 is used for the entire interior except for the backside pocket panel. For the Multico version, color 2 is used for the entire top panel piece (which extends to approximately the top third of the back of the bag) and the strap.
Mosaïque au 24: for the Multico version, color 2 is used for the exterior side panels.
Cabavertige: no Verso version. For the Multico version, color 2 is used for the small triangular panel on one side, and all of the other side.
Citiback: no Verso version. or the Multico version, color 2 is used for the side panels only.
Cityhall: for the Multico version, color 2 is used for the interior and undersides of the handles.
Sac A Depeches and Sac A Depeches Light: for the Verso version, color 2 is used for the interior below the flap. For the Multico version, color 2 is used for the entire interior and the clochette which comes with the Light.
Victoria Light: no Verso version. For the multi version, color 2 is used just for the handles.
Special Order Leathers and Colors
So, once you have selected the bag you want to order and which version will work for you, it’s time to choose among the leathers and the colors. As I discussed in my prior article, this part can get very tricky because each type of leather has its own list of colors. This means you may need to decide which is more important to you, the color (colors, if you’re doing Multico) or the leather. (I, personally, always choose chevre because it is only offered for SO, it’s sturdy, and I love the texture and sheen, but not everyone likes the texture and sheen of this leather.)
If you are ordering a Line bag, you will choose any leather color from the exterior list, and a different thread color from the thread list.
If you are ordering a Verso bag, you will choose any leather color from the exterior list, an interior color from the interior list, and one or two colors from the thread list.
If you are ordering a Multico bag, the two colors you choose must both be on the same exterior leather list. The interior leather list is for the Verso option only. You will also choose one or two colors from the thread list.
For the current 2021-2022 season, these are the exterior colors being offered for each leather:
Chèvre Mysore: Nata, Gris Perle, Gris Tourterelle, Étoupe, Noisette, Rouge Sellier, Noir, Lime, Rouge de Coeur, Capucine, Brique, Rose Sakura, Rose Mexico, Bleu Brume, Bleu Encre, Bleu Indigo, Vert Criquet, Menthe.
Taurillon Clémence: Blanc, Nata, Trench, Alezan, Gold, Gris Tourterelle, Gris Étain, Rouge Sellier, Noir, Lime, Rouge Casaque, Rose Sakura, Rose Extréme, Bleu Pâle, Bleu Zellige, Deep Blue, Bleu Nuit, Vert Cyprès.
Veau Epsom: Craie, Bleu Glacier, Biscuit, Alezan, Gris Asphalte, Graphite Rouge Sellier, Noir, Jaune Poussin, Rouge Casaque, Capucine, Brique, Mauve Sylvestre, Rose Extréme, Bleu Brume, Bleu Zellige, Bleu Saphir, Vert Criquet, Vert Cyprès.
Veau Epsom (Casaque Only): Bleu Glacier, Biscuit, Alezan, Bleu Brume, Bleu Zellige, Bleu Saphir
Veau Swift: Nata, Béton, Bisuit, Alezan, Gold, Gris Asphalte, Rouge Sellier, Noir, Rouge Piment, Capucine, Rose Sakura, Rose Extréme, Bleu Brume, Bleu Zellige, Navy, Very Criquet, Vert Rousseau.
Veau Togo: Craie, Gris Perle, Trench, Biscuit, Alezan, Gold, Gris Tourterelle, Rouge Sellier, Noir, Jaune Poussin, Rouge Casaque, Capucine, Rose Mexico, Bleu Zellige, Bleu Saphir, Bleu Nuit, Menthe, Vert Rousseau.
Ostrich: Béton, Gris Perle, Gris Tourterelle, Graphite, Noir, Capucine, Cognac, Bleuet, Bleu Iris, Vert Vertigo.
Polished Alligator/Crocodile (“Shiny Exotic”): Gris Foncé, Havane, Noir, Rouge de Coeur, Oramge Poppy, Rose Mexico, Bleu Zellige, Bleu Saphir, Vert Jade, Vert Rousseau.
Matt Alligator/Crocodile (“Matte Exotic”): Vanille, Kraft, Gris Perle, Noir, Lime. Sanguine. Rose Extréme, Bleu de Malte, Vert d’Eau, Vert Rousseau.
Note that you need to be specifically offered an Alligator or Crocodile SO in order to place it; otherwise, you can select any of the regular, non-exotic leathers or Ostrich. Therefore, please NOTE that while Ostrich is considered an exotic leather, for purposes of this article I will use the term “exotic” to refer to Crocodile/Alligator only.
For the current 2021-2022 season, these are the interior colors being offered, regardless of the leather you choose. The following interior list applies to Verso bags only. If you select a Verso bag, the color below will be your color 2. If you select a Multico bag, colors 1 and 2 must be on the same exterior leather list above, not the interior list.
Interior Colors for Verso: Gris Perle, Noir, Toffee, Gold, Cacao, Bougainvillier, Rouge de Coeur, Rouge H, Bordeaux, Lime, Jaune Ambre, Apricot, Orange Poppy, Capucine, Franboise, Rose Mexico, Rose Pourpre, Bleu Électrique, Bleu Saphir, Bleu Brighton, Bleu de Malte, Bleu Indigo, Cactus, Malachite, Vert Bosphore, Vert Foncé.
When selecting a certain leather, you need to be sure that Hermès is offering the bag you have selected in that particular leather: for example, the only regular leather being used for a Birkin Sellier is Epsom.
Special Order Stitching Options
Next is the stitching. Line bags must have a stitch that does not match the color of the bag. Verso bags can have any single color stitch, can have stitching colors to match color 1 and color 2, or can have color 2 stitch on the color 1 panels and color 1 stitch on color 2 panels (known as inverse or contrast stitch).
Stitch options for this season include:
Abricot, Acajou, Bleu du Nord, Bleu Electrique, Bleu France, Bleu Marine, Bleu Nuit, Bleu Paon, Bleu Saphir, Canari, Capucine, Celeste, Cornaline, Cuir, Cyclamen, Framboise, Graphite, Gris Asphalte, Gris Pâle, Gris Perle, Jaune Ambre, Jaune D’Or, Naturel, Noir, Pain D’Epice, Prune, Prunoir, Raisin, Rose Extrême, Rose Jaipur, Rose Lipstick, Rose Scheherazade, Rouge Vif, Toundra, Vert Cyprés, Vert Emeraude, Vert Fonce, Vert Vertigo.
Special Order Hardware Options
Hardware is another important choice that will affect how your bag will look; you need to make sure that it’s harmonious with the colors you have chosen and the rest of your wardrobe (particularly your jewelry, if you will want to match). Usual choices include Gold Hardware (GHW), Brushed Gold Hardware (BGHW), Palladium Hardware (PHW), Brushed Palladium Hardware (BPHW), Permabrass (PBHW), which usually looks like a Champagne or Pale Gold color, and Rose Gold Hardware (RGHW). While Palladiumis an option for nearly every bag, other options, such as Permabrass and the Brushed options, are much more limited.
Special Order Additional Stamps
At the time of ordering or after your bag arrives (depending upon the boutique), you may also request additional stamps to be added to the bag. You can add up to eight letters of text or a date. You can also add a Lucky Stamp, one of several special symbols including a Clover, Heart, Stirrup, H Knot, Link, Horse Hood, Star or Horse Head. These stamps will be placed on either the Clochette, on the front of the bag under the opening for the Turnlock, or on the strap, depending on which location you choose.
Optional Strap for Your Kelly
Also note that if you are ordering any version of a Kelly that comes with a strap (Sellier, Retourné, or Mini), you can order your strap to be a different length than the usual 85cm strap the Kelly comes with. Strap length options are 70 (short), 85 (standard), 105 (long) and 120 cm (extra long) .
The Hermès 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, most of which I have listed above, but they are subject to change. If you are not prepared (ok, even if you are prepared) it can be overwhelming. The process can be confusing so that research in advance 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 probably use a paper form (mine did not) 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 (lol, not even close at my boutique – no swatches at all of Rose Sakura!), but there are usually enough to get a good idea of what you are ordering (or you can have your SA hunt down an actual item in the boutique in that color. There are usually also samples of the various hardware and 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. In my experience, this was done via email and was “in the system” before I left the boutique (your SA can confirm this. The Special Order 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. Although wait times have decreased dramatically from prior arrival times of two or more years (I have waited about 9-12 months) orders can still take a while; can be made by the craftsperson with altered specifications, or your SO may even be canceled (although this is quite rare now). 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. I usually try to place the order and then think about it as little as possible or, alternatively, to keep my eye out for anything that will match the bag when it arrives). to forget about it. That helps me deal with the wait, and then I can focus on other H obsessions!
Need some inspiration or help? The PurseForum is the best resource; I have always relied on the wealth of knowledge and persecutive from the active members there. Here are some great PurseForum threads to help you out:
How to Decide Which Bag to Pick? Post 8627, wise words from TPFer @periogirl28.
The OFFICIAL Hermès Special Order thread A treasure trove of information! 2021 posts start page 490 (post 7340).
Thread discussion on the length time for Special Orders to arrive 2021 posts start page 597 (post 8945).
Ode to Contrast Stitching Lots of great stitching pics!
How the Lucky Symbols appear in person Post 8660, courtesy of TPFer @TheMrsoftheHB.