Much has been said about the experience of buying bags from Hermes. Many of their styles are ready in store and on the company’s website for anyone to purchase, but the of myriad color, leather, hardware, and size options make the availability of any specifically desired example unlikely. Regarding the three main collectable styles, Birkins, Kellys and Constances, the availability of any example is dependent now not only on the location’s stock but also on the customer’s relationship to the salesperson they’re engaged with there. None of these styles are ever available on the web store. While it is possible for anyone to simply walk into an Hermes boutique, ask for a Birkin, Kelly, or Constance, and be offered one, it is not a likely scenario. Most likely the salesperson asked would reply in the negative and suggest some of the available products on display instead. If attempting to purchase one of these collectible bags on your first visit to Hermes, it is advisable to start by asking the salesperson about the products on display, the clothes, shoes, homewares, jewelry or other accoutrements to the fully realized Hermes lifestyle. An interest in acquiring a variety of items from the company’s many ‘metiers,’ even if entirely disingenuous, is generally necessary to the successful cultivation of a fruitful relationship with a salesperson. The likelihood of being offered a Birkin, Kelly, or Constance increases with not only with each purchase made with your salesperson (and it is imperative to stick with the same salesperson each time you shop) but also with every inquiry made and bit of interest shown in other products.
To a known client, a salesperson will often reply to a vague request for Birkins or Kellys with their own request for specificity. Inquiring about a certain style in a certain size, preferably in a particular color range will often yield a more positive answer ranging from ‘Let me check in the back’ followed up politely yet negatively a few minutes later, accompanied by a request for other preferences should examples become available in the future (and if they do, they must be purchased in the store on the day they arrive in stock), to the same trip to the back followed by the emergence of one or two large orange boxes, and the salesperson’s beckoning towards a private room or empty part of the store, where the bag or bags on offer can be revealed. If more than one bag emerges from the back, it is highly unlikely the salesperson will be allowed to sell more than one.
Once offered one of these bags it is advisable to purchase it, especially early in building a salesperson relationship, even if it is not the exact bag desired. Refusing to purchase a Birkin or Kelly once one if offered greatly reduces the chance of being offered another in the future. Long-term regular clients, though, who have already purchased multiple bags of these styles can exercise their status to more successfully request specific bags and refuse others that don't suit their tastes. The likelihood of being offered a limited edition bag is based on a customer’s stated interest in them, as a desire solely for fun or unusual, or special bags is easily accounted for by a salesperson. Generally speaking, when a boutique receives a shipment of Birkins, Kellys and Constances, the store’s salespeople are given the opportunity to reserve select bags for their clients who have expressed desire for whichever particular examples have just arrived. Rare or highly sought-after examples received, such as Himalayans or Picnic Kellys, will be doled out according to the sales manager’s description, with salespeople making cases as to the qualifications of their respective clients as valued customers of the store most deserving of the contested bag. Some may be reserved for the store to have in stock for lucky new customers, and any bags refused by the clients on the first offering will then be made available to other salespeople and their clients.
The next step in buying bags from Hermes comes in the opportunity to special order a bag to your specifications. Salespeople make this offer to their best clients twice yearly, with the availability of various colors and leathers changing each season, and other qualities such as how many colors, which styles and which sizes Hermes will accept changing less often. These ‘Special Order’ bags, most often Birkins or Kellys, but as of recently Constances as well (other styles such as Bolides, Kelly Depeches, and Jiges have been available for Special Order as well) since around 2006 have all be emblazoned with the identifying Horseshoe Stamp, or HSS, accompanying the Hermes band stamp. The existence of this stamp on some bags marks the difference between a Special Order and a Limited Edition, and sometimes even a regular bag, as orders can be placed in this manner for specifically desired examples that may be in production, but that the collector has not been able to get their hands on any other way.
The opportunity to special order a bag in an exotic skin is only offered to a yet higher level of Hermes customer, and the ability beyond that, to order entirely unique special Birkins and Kellys crafted with unusual materials like leather fringe, beading, embroidery, feathers or fur panels is yet another step above.