How to buy a Birkin bag

How to buy a Birkin bag
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A gray, disembodied hand reaching for a black Birkin. The background is a purple grid.
  • The Hermès Birkin bag is a pop culture icon and status symbol.
  • However, it’s not that simple to buy, even if you have the funds.
  • Business Insider spoke with Birkin influencers about how they secured their bags.

For those even vaguely familiar with designer items, the Hermès Birkin bag is a recognizable symbol of luxury.

The structured, trapezoidal handbag has been made famous by The Kardashians, clueless “Sex and the City” character Samantha Jones (“It’s not a bag. It’s a Birkin.”), and myriad hip-hop lyrics — as the City Girls once famously proclaimed, “Big Birkin bag hold five, six figures.”

But purchasing a new one isn’t as simple as walking into your local boutique and selecting one from a cabinet. Waiting lists to buy the bag no longer exist, and stock is both limited and in high demand.

Business Insider spoke with Charles Gross and Cristina Anghel, Birkin influencers and Hermès experts, for tips on their strategies to secure the elusive bags, considered one of the best luxury investments on the market.

Hermès did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Find a friendly salesperson
Orange Hermès Birkin bag on grass with grass sticking out of bag

Getting a Birkin or Kelly straight from Hermès is impossible online, according to the luxury retailer’s website, so locating a physical store is your first step.

Gross explained that Hermès emphasizes the relationship between the customer and their sales associate. This sales associate will be the person who connects you to your first Birkin.

“It is imperative that you find yourself an associate and work with them exclusively,” Gross said.

One downside is that customers sometimes don’t click with their sales associate, and Gross has found it can be difficult to switch to another.

His advice? Get to know one through friends or social media connections. It can be as simple as searching #Birkin on Instagram or TikTok.

 

Start Spending?
Three pink Hermès Birkin Bags stacked on top of eachother

Hermès was hit with a proposed class-action antitrust lawsuit on Tuesday over what litigants allege is an illegal requirement for Birkin hopefuls to purchase ancillary products from the brand.

Gross said he’s heard people say you should spend as much as you would on a Birkin on other merchandise first if you hope to be offered a bag — for example, if you want a Birkin 25 that could cost around $10,000, plan to spend as much just to get the offer — though he doesn’t believe that is the case.

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And legal experts are skeptical that plaintiffs will be able to prove that spending goals such as the ones Gross has heard of are actual requirements Hermès has put in place.

Susan Scafidi, the director at Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute, told BI it would be difficult for plaintiffs to prove that Hermès’ has a “lockstep policy” on how much a customer should purchase to access a Birkin or how sales associates determine who gets a bag.

Melissa K. Dagodag, an attorney specializing in business law, also told BI that the lawsuit would be difficult to prove. Still, it could threaten the Birkin bag’s image.

“Maybe Birkin bags will become less of a status symbol and more of an ‘I’m a sucker’ symbol, casting buyers in some kind of unintended dark light,” Dagodag told BI.

Scafidi said the lawsuit may shake up Hermès — and other luxury brands — and force it to reevaluate its policies to avoid future antitrust litigation.

“In other words, there may never be a better time for an ordinary customer with thousands to spend on a bag to go shopping,” Scafidi told BI. 

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

Make your intentions known, but not too quickly
Brown Hermès bag in plane window

Gross and Anghel said you should know exactly what bag you want — the size, type of leather, and hardware — as you build your relationship with your sales associate. When it comes to customization, there are plenty of styles to choose from and plenty of guides online.

But be warned: You may not be offered the bag of your choice.

“If a bag comes in that matches your preferences, it’s up to them if they want to offer that for you,” Gross said.

You should make your intentions of getting a Birkin known — but don’t be too demanding. Ask about it during your second or third visit, Anghel said.

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Play the waiting game
Black Hermès Birkin bag on black backdrop

When Anghel started purchasing Birkins and Kellys 10 years ago, she said it was typical for her to wait six months to a year for a bag. It’s different now.

“I’ve been on the wish list for a mini-Kelly — another obsession that everyone has these days — for about two years, and I still haven’t managed to get one,” Anghel said. “I would say that it is getting much harder to get any Birkin or Kelly bag at the Hermès store than it used to be before. Much harder.”

Ultimately, Gross and Anghel said you don’t know when exactly you’ll be graced with a new bag, but when your potential Birkin arrives, you may be greeted with a cryptic message from your sales associate telling you to come into the store for a surprise.

The bag ceremony
Hermes Birkin

There are a lot of theatrics when you are finally bestowed your prize.

Gross said he was taken to a separate room and ceremonially presented with the signature Hermès orange box.

“They wear gloves, they open the box for you to unwrap it, and then they present you with this bag,” Gross said. “And I think that does two things: It makes it really special and beautiful, but it also creates an incredibly high-pressure environment. You’re in this little room and or a more quiet area of the store, you’ve been presented with this bag, and there’s almost this feeling where you’re like, ‘Oh God, I can’t say no,’ even if it isn’t something you don’t want.”

Gross said he’s had friends who became upset when they were still not offered the bag of their dreams after putting in the time and effort with their sales associate.

However, you can say no. “You don’t want to buy a bag that you don’t really love,” Anghel said, but both she and Gross agreed you run the risk of not being offered another bag in the near future.

However, some people end up loving their mystery Birkin. Anghel said when the first bag she was offered was the exact bag she wanted, it was like a “rush of adrenaline.”

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“You get very, very excited,” she said. “You’re like a little child, waiting for a gift you’ve been dreaming about for so long.”

Shortcuts: The Paris store and buying secondhand
Charles holds up a black Birkin bag
Charles holds up a Black crocodile Birkin he purchased from Fashionphile

Hermès has three Paris locations where your likelihood of securing a Birkin is much higher. Anghel said you don’t have to worry about building a relationship with a sales associate in Paris.

Influencers who scored a Birkin at one of these stores say to book a leather goods appointment the day before a planned visit. But be warned: You may not get one. Anghel, who has gotten an appointment before, told BI that it’s basically a “lottery system.”

 

And if all else fails, buy pre-owned.

Gross, who has worked with the consignment brand Fashionphile, said he would much rather purchase secondhand at this point in his Hermès journey.

“I recently purchased a black Birkin 30 in crocodile,” Gross said. “If I asked for that at the store. I don’t know how long it would take. I don’t know what they would offer me.”

However, a Birkin or Kelly can sometimes be more expensive on the secondhand market because of the high demand as more people look to invest.

Gross pointed out that buying used means you don’t have to spend time establishing a good rapport with an associate.

The secondhand market has other advantages. You can try on bags to see if they work for you, browse different colors and sizes, and get a bag much sooner than you would new. At some places, like Fashionphile, you can access horseshoe Birkins — bespoke Birkins offered to VIP clients of Hermès and finished off with a tiny horseshoe stamp.

Lara Osborn, the company’s vice president of procurement and authentication, told BI it buys and sells these super-exclusive bags at their stores.

“Nobody has to know that you weren’t the special customer that was offered this special, unique experience to build your bag because you’re carrying it,” she said. “We’ll never tell anyone that somebody picked it out before you.”

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