L et’s start with the most basic question: what is an Hermès Special Order Bag? It's a bag customized in the colors, leather, hardware, stitching and model – typically in either the Birkin, Kelly or Constance – of your choice. But Special Orders aren't for everyone; rather, these handbags are reserved for Hermès VIP customers. VIPs are typically individuals who've demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to the brand, their store and a particular sales associate through a strong purchase history.
The Special Order process takes place twice a year, and the number of Special Orders granted to each individual store is strictly controlled. If you are lucky enough to finally place one, the final order needs to be approved by the store director before it's submitted to Paris; the Paris office then reviews the order. Occasionally, a choice can be rejected. After placing the order come the hardest part: the wait. The general time frame for receiving a Special Order bag ranges from six to eighteen months, but the wait time for exotic skins can be much longer – up to three years.
Starting about ten years ago, Hermès began embossing all Special Order bags with a special stamp, called the Horseshoe Stamp – hence why many refer to these bags as “Horseshoe Stamp" or "HSS" bags. The horseshoe is a hallmark of the bag’s exclusivity and the prestige status of the customer.
Years ago, Hermès offered nearly limitless choices for Special Order bag colors and color combinations; but as demand has grown, Hermès imposed tighter restrictions. Today, most VIP clients are allowed to choose just two colors to appear on a single Special Order bag. The two colors can both appear on the outside of the bag, or the bag can have one color on the inside and the other on the outside. The stitching can either be in the same color as the leather, or can contrast the leather. A few examples of multicolored HSS bags included in Sotheby's Handbags & Accessories Online auction include the Bleu Aztec and Black Sellier Kelly 28cm and the Bicolor Gris Perle and Moutarde Birkin 25cm.
The vast majority of Special Orders are crafted in leather, including epsom, togo, chevre, clemence, swift and the new taurillon novillo. Ostrich bi-colors are occasionally available as well. Crocodile and alligator Special Orders are extremely rare, but the outcome is especially beautiful.
Given that Horseshoe Stamp Special Order bags are rare and require such a long wait time and a strong purchase history, they sell at a substantial premium in the secondary market. But owning such a unique bag makes the purchase a worthwhile investment for the Hermès collector.