What happens when one of the world's most valuable bags becomes even more valuable? Hermès only creates a limited number of its renowned Birkin bags each year, making the house's special editions, which are launched every few years, extremely difficult to obtain.
These purses, made from start to finish by a single craftsman, are available in a variety of materials and colors, and demand has never been higher. A matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 25 set a Birkin auction record in November 2020, fetching HK$3,000,000 / US$388,738 at Christie's Hong Kong.
We delve into the limited-edition fashions here, which range from uniquely functional designs to dramatic pieces created in conjunction with renowned designers like Jean Paul Gaultier.
- The Shadow Birkin
The Shadow Birkin, which is both dramatic and understated, was initially produced in 2009 by acclaimed French designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès' creative director from 2003 to 2010. Hermès re-released the bag in limited quantities a decade later.
Gaultier established himself at the house by reinterpreting traditional styles in modern ways. He attempted to create a trompe-l’œil look for the Shadow by showing a top flat and sangles loosely strewn. In actuality, the design is raised, making it the only Birkin that deviates from the classic construction.
- The Club Birkin
The Club Birkin, one of the house's sportiest designs, was introduced in 2012. The Club, like the 2017 Touch Birkin, frequently uses exotic materials in its characteristic pair of vertical stripes.
However, like with the later Sunrise Rainbow, color-blocking is essential. As a result, the Club always has a contrasting center panel. The design shown above is a flaming mix of orange Barénia-leather stripes and a scarlet crinoline panel.
- The Birkin Ghillies
The Ghillies, which is defined by its ornamental trim, is one of Hermès' most sought and difficult-to-find styles.
The Ghillies were introduced in 2012 as an extension of the haute bijouterie jewelry collection created in 2011 by Pierre Hardy, Hermès' artistic director of jewelry. The design is based on the same-named Scottish men's dress shoe, which contains perforations known as 'broguing' that allow the shoe to dry more quickly after outdoor exercise.
'Hardy took from his own heritage and modified it into something stylish and utilitarian,' says Caitlin Donovan, Christie's New York's head of Handbags & Accessories. 'The brogue was originally a man's shoe, but converted into a women's purse, it looks even more feminine and detailed.'
- The Birkin Touch
The Touch Birkin, introduced in 2017, is Hermès' response to collectors wishing for a hint of exotic material on their bags. This type has a leather body with an alligator or crocodile top flap and is available in a variety of jewel tones. Pops of exotic leather will occasionally be used to emphasize other elements of the bag.
While Birkins are normally worn open, the Touch's exquisite detailing are best displayed when worn closed.
- The Tressage Birkin
The Tressage Birkin Bags from Hermès' Tressage, or 'braided,' collection are distinguished by multicolored woven leather panels. The Birkin edition debuted in 2018 and was only available in three colorways. It is only available in 30 and 35cm sizes.
While most Tressage handbags feature woven handles, pieces like this Rouge de Coeur Birkin with a subtle red design down the center are more difficult to find.
- The Birkin of Faubourg
The Faubourg Birkin, one of Hermès' most recent 'Holy Grail' bags, was initially launched in a very limited edition at the end of 2019. Hermès has astonished collectors with a new edition in Beton, which debuted in two colorways, brown and blue. The bag's design is inspired by the façade of the Hermès flagship at 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and it has orange awnings and a clochette inspired by the house's signature orange shopping bag.
- The Rainbow Sunrise Birkin
The Sunrise Rainbow is a special Birkin completed with Sellier stitching that was first introduced in 2020. 'Sellerier' refers to the visible exterior stitching that gives the bag a crisper, more structured shape and is often reserved for the house's Kelly handbags.
This handbag's color-blocked style blends Lime, Rose Confetti, Terre Battue, and Sesame for an eye-catching design that is ideal for the summer season. The interior is lined with Sesame chevre, and matching stitching on the exterior highlights Hermès' excellent craftsmanship.
- The Birkin Cargo
The Cargo Birkin, which will be available in 2020, is another of Hermès's newest limited-edition models. It is the most utilitarian Birkin to date, made of lightweight canvas and with five exterior pockets.