Carrie: “The Birkin bag? That’s not even your style!”

Samantha: “Oh honey, it’s not so much the style; it’s what carrying it means.”

The above conversation that ensues in the fourth season of Sex and the City marks the emergence of what many deem the very first Holy Grail bag. Millions of fashion-lovers all over the world, most of whom had little to no clue about the bag’s existence, let alone understanding of the importance this bag would have in the coming decades, looked on as this cultural, artistic, and economic phenomenon shot into popularity.

But since its television debut, the Birkin’s status has only risen, cementing itself in our collective mindsets not just as a purse but as a symbol of one’s achievements. As Samantha elaborates, “When I’m tooling around town with that bag, I’ll know I’ve made it.”

Had the house of Hermès envisaged that the Birkin would revolutionize the art, commerce, and fashion scenes respectively, and place the brand itself at the convergence of the three? Perhaps not; after all, the Birkin was merely meant to be a regular-sized carryall that doubled as a diaper bag for singer and actress Jane Birkin. And the story of the bag’s inception, on a sick bag on that fateful Air France flight, is common fashion folklore by now.

Somewhere along the way, therefore, the world-famous luggage manufacturer and saddlery not only entered the mainstream of the fashion conversation but also became the most coveted brand of the modern-day. And throughout its evolution, its client list has gotten as impressive as it has become expansive – boasting the names of celebrities, presidents, and first wives, alongside some of the wealthiest individuals on the planet.

So, now that we’ve established that the brand itself has undergone a massive evolution, has the perception of the ideal Hermès buyer evolved as well? Or has its unwavering commitment to quality always been meant for… well, not quite the masses? Let’s dig into some of the characteristics of Hermès buyers.

Sex and the City Birkin

image via HBO

The Hermès Person Lives the Hermès Life

Most brands nowadays sell not just a product but the notion of a lifestyle – achievable by using a said product(s). But success with different brands comes in varying degrees – how many of us have seen others use, let alone have used ourselves, a Louis Vuitton teacup set, or a Chanel bicycle, even though both are very much present among these brands’ lineups?

Hence, just because a brand is giving buyers the chance to indulge in more items aside from their well-known products, it doesn’t guarantee that anybody would actually make these purchases, except, perhaps, only its most loyal customers.

For the clients of Hermès, however, the brand has built a full-fledged ecosystem, one which most customers have no choice but to enter if they wish to make big-ticket purchases at retail, like the Birkin, the Kelly, and more recently, the Constance. We evidenced this in stories and books, in which many describe with striking honesty how. in order to get their hands on a Birkin, there was a requirement (not expressly, of course, but you get the point) to spend a minimum amount on various miscellaneous paraphernalia before requests for a Birkin from the fabled “back room” yielded results.

This goes to show how “proving one’s worth” (sometimes known as “building one’s buyer profile”) to Hermès plays a major role in determining who gets to be Hermès’ most valued clients. In other words, only those willing to live the fully realized Hermès lifestyle get to take home the big orange boxes.

The Hermès Person is Très Diplomatique!

While the premier handbags of Hermès are usually what everyone has in mind, just speaking about the Birkin doesn’t do justice to the sheer range of items Hermès has to offer, and no, I’m not speaking of the beach towels. What I’m really referring to are the silk scarves.

Hermes Pink Kelly

You probably already know of their importance (and their regal significance) from The Princess Diaries. Still, besides that, the scarves are one of the most exquisitely detailed (and meticulously crafted) Hermès products. One that is actually wearable on a day-to-day basis. Alongside those are watches, bag charms, footwear, bracelets, and a wide range of knick-knacks which I’d never be able to nonchalantly drop more than $300 on.

Still, the Hermès person would (I mean, what’s a couple of hundred compared to a Birkin with a five-figure starting price, right?). To get their hands on their desired selections of non-purse accessories (thus showing that they’re serious purchasers of the brand who aren’t just interested in the handbags) and to eventually get offered the handbags in question, there’s one force in play at Hermès that simply cannot be denied – the sales associates.

Now the discussion on SAs is a lengthy and controversial one. We’ve heard about how to build relationships with one, and we’ve also heard back from an SA. And the truth about the Hermès (and, more recently, Chanel) SAs is that they’re vested with considerably more power than other fashion houses or retailers. As such, they not only have the ability to procure exactly what you want but also sometimes surprise you with things that you never knew you needed.

In other words, an SA is like a friend who’s also an insider at Hermès. So it becomes all the more important that you treat them like one, i.e., don’t start asking about a Birkin immediately, because frankly, they get that a lot already. Diplomacy, therefore, is key.

Another cardinal rule that most Hermès veterans seem to agree on: it is advisable to accept your first offered bag, even if it isn’t exactly what you wished for – not only does it increase the chances of getting more offers in the future, but rejecting your first offer might potentially mean you won’t get others for quite some time.

The Hermès person is patient (and maybe wealthy).

“It’s four thousand.”
“I know”
“And there’s a waiting list.”
“I assumed”
“Five years”
“For a bag?”
“It’s not a bag; it’s a Birkin.”

Was the waitlist concept ever real, or was it just a clever product placement strategy to keep the brand’s legions of fans at bay for many years?

We may never know, but we know that one does not become an Hermès VIP overnight. Rather, they might be required to wait any length of time, from as short as a month up to a few years, to build a spending profile worthy of such status. And the prerequisite that comes with the lengthy wait-time is patience – not just because one has to spend an inordinate amount of time manifesting their Holy Grail bag, but also to decide on their selections out of the extensive range of leathers, colors, and hardware Hermès has up its sleeve.

And perhaps this wait time isn’t very unusual either. After all, Baghunter’s 2016 study revealed that the Birkin’s investment value rose by more than 500% over the course of the last 35 years, and a 14.2% annual return on a Birkin is even better than the gold standard! So, just like one would like to take their time investing in the market on stocks projected to have the highest returns, one is also required to spend some time deliberating on the Birkin of their choice.

Hermes Birkin Croc Colorblocked

So, now that we’ve seen what the ideal Hermès VIP is required to have, it might seem less confusing, albeit no less easy, to start planning for a Birkin. In fact, I’m sure by now, we’re all mentally feeling quite prepared to drop a few tens of thousands on a Birkin (that is, if we theoretically had the cash to spare). In reality, though, speaking from experience, I have way too many (relatively) lower-priced bags on my wishlist and not an ounce of the patience required to save up for one (kudos to fellow PurseBlogger Alejandra, who recently started her journey of acquiring one!)

Speaking of the big bucks one must drop to get their hands on a B or a K, it’s not an easy pill to swallow either. For a brand to gain the desired position in the minds of fashion’s fickle consumers, and convince them to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on their products in a market flooded with the offerings of fellow competitors, is no easy task. Even more difficult is trying to move to a more elite clientele, as we see in the case of Mulberry and Coach.

Hermès, by comparison, has not only positioned itself at a higher price point from the very beginning of its elite luggage-making days (for reference, at the time of the filming of the aforementioned Sex and the City episode, the Birkin in question retailed for $4,000, whereas a Chanel Classic Flap went for $1,500), but its buyers have actually become accustomed to paying the premium for quality and perhaps even come to expect to pay the extra costs to obtain the greater sense of status it confers.

Hermes Jypsiere

Then, who is the ideal Hermès buyer? Well, perhaps the truth is that the ideal Hermès customer is a mix of many things – they’re bespoke individuals appreciating the finer things in life, and Hermès’ rich heritage and craftsmanship feed their need for quality and aesthetics. They’re status-conscious people eager to buy into the Hermès name, perhaps to gain social acceptance, like the ladies on Nothing But Thirty, or as a display of power as author and anthropologist Wednesday Martin describes in her book, ‘Primates of Park Avenue.’

Conversely, they might not even be looking for a recognizable purse in the first place – many Hermès bags like the Jypsiere, the Herbag, or the Evelyne are perfect for minimalist fashionistas looking for a high-quality purse that’ll last them a lifetime (plus, the concept of the bag spa is so exciting)!

At the end of the day, what makes all these separate individuals with different motives into Hermès people is the thrill of the hunt for something which can only be afforded by the very few and isn’t easily obtainable – described by Hermès itself as an “ultra-premium luxury.” And in a luxury market that the brand’s former CEO Patrick Thomas says “is built on a paradox: the more desirable the brand becomes, the more it sells, but the more it sells, the less desirable it becomes.” The balance that Hermès strikes resonates with its buyers the most.

So, do you think you’re an Hermès person?

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Wendy
Wendy
4 months ago

After reading the purseforum and seeing how people kiss their SAs butt and buying random crap all in the desperate end-goal of getting an overrated bag that’s known more for being a status symbol than its craft, I’d rather NOT be associated with or be regarded as a Hermes person.

not to mention how its allure been heavily diluted with every influencer having/renting one, real or fake.

Bir
Bir
4 months ago

I am not a writer but i wish to take my time on this matter so please bare with me because i would like to perhaps leave a comment here that truly explains how i feel and how i see Hermes.

i would like to begin with saying that i first entered an Hermes store at a very young age, my father in particular told me that Hermes was the most refined and discrete maker of fine items that one should live ones life with, he also said that many times its so much more important to buy things of a personal nature such as a tie scarf bag or shoes from a house like Hermes, since they are items and accoutrements one spends a lot of time with, or in. As a young child all of this seemed rather unimportant, that day i was more interested in getting a small toy or sweet. noting this as we toured the store and my mother purchased certain items, i was given presented with small box of what the very pristine ! sales associate described as sachets of eau de orange vert, like oshiboris she said,i asked what that was, and she kindly explained,…..she said that when i felt like i was done playing or tired i should use one of these and clean, refresh my face and hands and breathe in the scent, my father loved the idea and purchased cologne and two more boxes of sachets for me, having done that he said you must appreciate this and work hard so that when you wish to buy something nice for yourself or some one you love, you can get it form Hermes, because it was always worth it, from that moment on I believe i became what you try to describe as an Hermes person. to this day i shop at Hermes for simple gifts, small luxuries, as well as beautiful items crafted with beautiful materials, including yes, those bags, (years later i would discover my mothers spotted bag was an ostrich birkin 35,gifted by my father when my sister was born.)

all this said because of how much Hermes and its notoriety and perception has changed over time I have moved on to bags like the lindy and the plume, bags that share the refinement but are under the radar shall we say.
But i love Hermes i think in some way its a part of my upbringing like certain foods or traditions, so even though i miss the calm and beautiful serenity of the Hermes boutiques of the past I will always value Hermes. I think i will always be in some way an Hermes person.

Chris111
Chris111
4 months ago
Reply to  Bir

This could be my story…. My mother took me to Hermes, when I was very young too….
I love these products….wonderful

Bir
Bir
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris111

good to know that Hermes people, at least to you and me, can also mean fond memories and appreciation for beautiful items.

Anon
Anon
4 months ago

Sorry* but Hermes bags looks so matronly. Im in my mid-20s and I’d like a bag that feels timeless, but not something that looks like a grandma bag! I tried on my friend’s picotin and I felt like it aged me 20 years. Shame they’re the only brand that gives a damn about quality maybe they should start caring about timeless but not matronly designs.

*not sorry

Rachel
Rachel
4 months ago
Reply to  Anon

If you are interested in quality bags outside of Hermes I would consider Valextra. The bags are handmade/ painted and come in a range of sizes and aesthetics. The colours are beautiful and I especially like the Iside model.

Leona
Leona
4 months ago

I used to want a Birkin too but seeing celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Kardashians, etc having so many Birkins like a dime a dozen just made the bag no longer special. Plus seeing the lengths to play that “Hermes game” just turns me off the brand as a whole. Imagine exploiting your clients by making them buy stuff they might’ve not even want in the first place to have the “honor” to buy a bag, A BAG!

It just seems stressful and demeaning. I’d rather put that money to a low key designer or at least less well known, but still prized for their amazing craftsmanship.

Sandy
Sandy
4 months ago
Reply to  Leona

I agree with your statement about the Hermes game. I will NEVER demean myself in this way! I have many designer bags from many brands and I have always been treated with respect and gratitude in the boutiques.

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
4 months ago

Why would anyone want to self-identify or be identified as “an Hermès person”? I’m a human being who happens to own Hermès products… What’s in my closet doesn’t reduce me to a label like “Hermès person.”

Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

I wouldn’t call it reductive, but rather people looking to be part of a particular tribe, especially if it’s signaling that they’re part of an exclusive club.

How many times did you run across people mentioning a particular affinity for a car brand, vacation spot, a type of alcohol, a brand of shoes, etc.? Seems to be rather common, especially if there’s a perceived rivalry with another strong brand.

It’s probably a symptom of brand marketing working too effectively. I don’t care for it personally, just looking to understand why it’s taking place.

Kim
Kim
4 months ago

IMO seeing so many people with Birkins cheapened Hermes to me. Not to mention that superfake post from that closet confessional, I just can’t help seeing an average person wearing a Birkin or Kelly with some lululemon or Vince Camuto outfit and assume superfake.

psny15
psny15
4 months ago
Reply to  Kim

Yes agree only wannabe people carry Hermes

Candee
Candee
4 months ago
Reply to  psny15

You are just too much! Did it ever occur to you that maybe people carry what they like and don’t attach any label to it? Who wants to pretend to be anyone other than themselves? Your opinion reeks of jealousy. It really does.

Wendy
Wendy
4 months ago
Reply to  Kim

Ugh same. Ever since those Russian influencers burned their Chanel bags, I can’t help but assume any designer bag an influencer is wearing is a superfake.

Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

Say what? Is this some bizarre TikTok trend I am unaware of?

Candee
Candee
4 months ago

I don’t agree with placing labels on people for the brands they carry. I’m aware that “celebrities” carry a variety of bags, including BIrkins, but their fashion sense/styles don’t influence me, in any way. Also, the same with “influencers” (btw the most ridiculous title/label, ever).

I love bags from all fashion houses and carry what I love. I don’t care about anyone’s perception of me re: if I carry a Birkin, etc. when I’m wearing comfortable casual clothes. I’m too old to give a damn about the opinions of others about anything that I carry or wear. Life is too short. Just enjoy it! 🌹

psny15
psny15
4 months ago

I think people who carry Hermes bags now days seem desperate for attention to me

Kim
Kim
4 months ago
Reply to  psny15

100%!! Seeing so many people wearing Hermes with Uniqlo or Zara or some Nordstrom mid-range brand, it just looks so vulgar.

Bobbie Adler
Bobbie Adler
4 months ago
Reply to  Kim

People wearing Zara look vulgar to you?

Kim
Kim
4 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie Adler

I didn’t say people wearing Zara look vulgar to me. I SAID “people who wear Hermes with Zara” look vulgar to me.

if you have the money to play the Hermes game to then buy a Birkin and yet still choose to support fast fashion, then yeah, it’s vulgar.

if you don’t have the means/resources to buy above fast fashion, then that’s a different story. Which is why I made it explicit that it’s “people who wear Hermes with Zara” who look vulgar

Leona
Leona
4 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie Adler

Not them, but personally I think supporting fast fashion is pretty bad taste 🤷🏻‍♀️ I wouldn’t use the word “vulgar” though

Bobbie Adler
Bobbie Adler
4 months ago
Reply to  Leona

I agree with you that fast fashion is problematic but I hesitate to blame consumers. The problem lies with the practices of these corporations.

Leona
Leona
4 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie Adler

Yeah, I’m all for holding corporations accountable, but still feel consumers that have the means to boycott fast fashion (aka people who can afford Hermes and their $10K bags) but choose to continue to support fast fashion need to have some accountability held against them as well.

Big Bertha
Big Bertha
4 months ago
Reply to  psny15

What a gross generalization of millions of people.

Helen
Helen
4 months ago

I miss the old time when Hemes was a discreet lifestyle, either you like it, belong it or you don’t. That time most Birkin or Kelly users were not only bag users. Probably this is what Hermes is trying to maintain. Unfortunately the celebrities, pop culture, social media influencers and resellers are destroying what the brand stands for. So guess Hermes created this system and sometimes it does turn off the true brand users. But if you like the brand, you will still like it. Birkin, just like any other luxurious items, depends who carry it. Birkin doesn’t mean anything if the carrier’s whole life is about Birkin.

Lori
Lori
4 months ago

I love Hermes. I own a few bags, wallets, accessories from them and love them all. I am about to buy a GP as I want a subtle bag that is beautiful for everyday use. You just can’t compare the quality of the H bags to others IMO. I did “play the game” to get a B and loved the game. My SA is so kind and thoughtful and treated me so well. He shared in my excitement with all my purchases. It felt like a friendship, not a game. I recently bought a $1K scarf at LAX (that I had been wanting and they had in stock duty free…yay) and love it so much even though that was a lot to pay for a scarf. It is just beyond beautiful and I will wear it for years to come. So for me, I am totally a H person and so happy to be able to be one.

Maria
Maria
4 months ago
Reply to  Lori

Me too, I love the minimalist style and design. I have their other bags and a lot of their shoes, Of course I hate waiting for my next B offer, especially with how supply is nowadays, but I honestly don’t mind spending on their other lesser known products.

Chris
Chris
4 months ago
Reply to  Lori

So am I … !

Chris
Chris
4 months ago

No…I would never sell all of my handbags. Maybe the „older“ ones of LV or YSL but never Hermes of course or Chanel …etc.
maybe when I‘m over 80 and don’t have anyone to give them too….

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