Luxury changed forever during the legendary flight on which actress Jane Birkin and Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas brainstormed the ideal weekend bag. When the actress’s namesake Birkin bag was first released, in 1984, it was all the wonderful things it remains today. Handcrafted. Made of the finest leathers available. Limited in availability and designed for an exclusive clientele.
But it wasn’t until the It bag trend took off in the 1990s that the wider world said, “Wow.” Since then, the Birkin has become a cultural icon, coveted and often copied. Even the simplest black Birkin evokes the unmistakable impression of achievement. And then there are the limited editions. These unforgettable confections — in exotic leather, with unusual coloration or even an unmistakable scent — are catnip to collectors and eye candy to the rest of us.
We selected a sampling of the outstanding Hermès Birkins currently on 1stDibs and reached out to the sellers to learn what makes each one so special. More than a few of the vendors reminded us that resale provides a fast-track to some of the most exclusive bags on the market. As Luke Carter, a partner at the Sydney boutique Three Over Six, explains, for those buying directly from Hermès, it “would take years and years of relationships before they were offered one of these special pieces.”
To find out more about how special they are, read on.
“The Ghillies Birkin has remained a staple in the realm of Hermès collectors’ items since it was first produced as part of the 2011 haute bijouterie jewelry collection by Pierre Hardy, artistic director of jewelry at Hermès,” says Reece Morgan, director of handbags and jewelry at Xupes. “The Ghillies adaptation of the Birkin incorporates punctures and cut-out trims in the style of broguing inspired from Hardy’s heritage.” (A ghillie is the Scottish version of the Irish brogue shoe.)
“This bag is particularly rare,” Morgan continues, “because it has been crafted in a combination of turquoise Clemence leather and Ciel Evercolor leather and finished with grizzly suede, one of Hermès’s more sought-after materials. Each part of this Ghillies Birkin is so detailed and thoughtful — it’s a very unique piece for a veteran Hermès collector.”
“It’s extraordinarily unusual to see the ostrich in fuchsia,” says Stelios, proprietor of London’s De L’Époque, explaining that ostrich, one of Hermès’ precious leathers, is itself “hard to come by, so it’s rare to see complete bags in this fabrication.” But what really beguiles is the piece’s charm. “I call it a ‘happy bag,’ ” he says.
And it’s one that works across seasons, as fuchsia can be beautifully paired with gray in the winter and with red or green in the spring and summer. Make sure to give it an occasional rest, though — according to Hermès, “precious leather does not like to live a life of excess.”
“This limited-edition Hermès Fray Fray is revolutionary in terms of retooling a classic design,” says Annika Hansen, proprietor of ChicJoy. “The mixture of the fringed canvas with the Swift leather is what people are looking for these days — luxury that’s not ostentatious, luxury that’s very casual.”
Nonetheless, its design details give this stylish carryall an unexpected polish. “It’s done in the Sellier style that is used in the Kelly,” explains Hansen. “That gives it more structure than the Retourne style that is usually used for the Birkin.” Relaxed, yes, but the world of Hermès, inevitably impeccable.
“The Shadow Birkin truly is a collector’s piece,” says Ashley Stanton, head of handbags at myGemma. “Named after the optical illusion it creates, it was first released in 2009 by famed French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, the creative director for Hermès at the time.” Rereleased in limited quantities a decade later, Hermès celebrated its playful trompe-l’œil design, describing it as a “Birkin bag of mischief.”
“There was so much excitement about this bag when it was released, in 2019,” says Three Over Six’s Carter. “It represents the Hermès flagship store at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and it was done in two colors: This dark blue is for night, and there is a gold bag for the day. It’s also the first Birkin produced in this 20-centimeter size — because there were only a handful made, it’s very desirable in the collectible market.”
Like other limited editions featured in this article, the Faubourg Birkin is finished in the Sellier style, giving it an elegance equal to that of the flagship location. Carter calls it “both a standout piece and a statement piece” and says with a certainty that’s rare these days, “If you go to an event, chances are there won’t be someone carrying the same bag.”
The Haut à Courroies (HAC) is a travel-size Birkin that’s a favorite of connoisseurs. “This Western-inspired embroidered HAC is a very limited edition,” says Debra Kent, proprietor of Mightychic. From the 2021 Western collection, it had a turn on the runway and, according to Kent, in Hermès’s advertising campaign as well.
“This is a head turner,” says Donna Morabito, of eBoutique. “People love a bicolor Birkin, but three colors are pretty rare.” Not a special order, this 2021 design is instead one of the limited-edition Birkins recently released with a tricolor palette. The striking combination of Rouge de Coeur and Rose Extreme is “not something everyone else will have,” says Morabito, adding that it “is finished in the Sellier style, with the stitching on the outside, which makes it very rigid.”
“When the Hermès Dalmatian first appeared, in the early 2000s, it was considered a bit of an eyesore,” says Carter, of Three Over Six. “But in recent years, it has become one of Hermès’s most sought-after bags. As it was produced in limited quantities, it is seldom seen on the secondary market — so when they do pop up, they don’t stick around for long.”
Carter notes that the bag received a boost in popularity when Kylie Jenner added one to her collection. In fact, it is among her favorite bags. As she told Elle Australia on a tour of her Hermès collection, “The one that I think is the most unique and cool is definitely the Dalmation.”
“This is one of the most beautiful bags I have ever seen,” says Mightychic’s Kent. “It’s elegant and understated, yet it’s incredibly impactful.” The matte lizard of this limited-edition design is extremely rare, and the finish “sets it apart from other black Birkins,” she explains, enthusing, “This bag is a showstopper. It’s the one black Birkin that is really a stand-alone bag.”
“The Birkin 30 is a perfect size for all occasions, both day and night,” says Arpana Agarwal, of RichDiamonds. “Buying a Birkin Touch is a great way to own an exotic bag without the extremely high price tag for full exotics.” (For those who are wondering, “touch” is shorthand for the accents of exotic leather that grace this design.)
Convenience and color are also selling points. According to Agarwal, “Some bag lovers love that this bag is mostly Togo leather, which is more durable and easy to care for than a full crocodile bag, so you can use this bag much more frequently without worry. And the Bleu Encre color, while striking and bold, can actually go with just about anything.”
“Do you know the Tom Ford fragrance Fucking Fabulous?” asks Kent, of Mightychic, when asked to describe the Hermès Volynka HAC. “Well, this is Fucking Fabulous in a bag.” She’s not kidding. The Volynka has an “incredibly sexy smell,” she explains. “One that evokes tobacco, whisky, Clint Eastwood and the wide-open plains of Montana.”
In fact, it took Hermès six years to re-create the process for crafting Volynka leather, which was a prized commodity in I8th-century imperial Russia. Later, White Russians made the scent fashionable in 1920s Paris, evoking the grandeur of the lives they left behind. “It is not a subtle odor,” says Kent. “When you open the box it just hits you.” And even after so many centuries, she says, “it still evokes all sorts of emotions.”
The Himalayan Birkin has consistently made the list of the world’s most beautiful and expensive handbags. Its collectors are similarly elite. The Himalayan has been spotted on the arms of Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian, Marjorie Harvey and Singaporean influencer Jamie Chua. In a pure superstar gesture, J. Lo has used hers as a gym bag.
The Himalayan has increased in price over the last decade, a not uncommon feat for Hermès items. “Hermès and Chanel are the only brands in handbags and accessories that are truly an investment-quality purchase,” says Virgil Rogers, owner of Only Authentics. “If you buy a Chanel or Hermès bag and keep it for five years and take good care of it, you can always sell it for more that you purchased it for.”