What is the significance of SO and HSS bags at Podium?
Prior to attending semi-annual Podium, each store is allocated a certain number of so-called “Special Order” (SO) bags. They are typically limited to Birkins, Kellys and Constances, and have a Horseshoe stamped next to the Hermès name on the front, hence being know by Hermès afficiandos as “HSS” bags. Bags made in accordance with VIP client requests dates back for generations, but it wasn’t until these choice items were marked with the now-famed Horseshoe stamp, approximately ten years ago, that they earned their prestige.
Since HSS bags are limited in availability, clients will vie (typically by buying a large amount of other Hermès merchandise) for the opportunity to be among those chosen for this privilege.
How the customization process works?
Each bag is designed by the client with the assistance of his/her Sales Associate, approved by the Store’s Manager and Hermès corporate. The company offers a range of options by color and leather, but even with this limitation, the task of designing a custom bag can be daunting. For example, HSS orders placed in June 2017, could select two colors out of 20 if they desired Epsom leather. That means there were 380 permutations for the outside alone.
The selection process can be quite stressful, not only because of the options but also because some combinations turn out quite attractive, while others are not so appealing. Furthermore, certain combinations become quite coveted and carry high premiums in the secondary market, while others are not. Hermès buyers turn online to see combinations in prior years, as well as discuss the possibilities among themselves. The two months leading up to Podium become a frenzy.
For each special order bag, the client must choose the following:
- Bag types: Birkin, Kelly (sellier or retourne) or Constance.
- Bag sizes: Birkins and Kellys from petite 25cm to the workhorse 40cm; Constances from 18cm to 24cm.
- Bag leathers or skins: Most clients are limited to leather bags and can elect from the various types offered by Hermès. Today, the most popular are Epsom, Chevre, Togo, and Clemence. The most favored customers can order bi-color crocodile or ostrich.
- Bag colors: HSS bags must be made of two colors (with a few exceptions). Over the years, Hermès has limited the color options but the combinations as stated above is still daunting.
- Color arrangement: Once the colors are chosen, the client needs to decide which one is the primary color and which one is the accent. Clients can have the bag be entirely in one color with the accent color on the inside; the outside of the bag can have hints of the accent color just on the piping or straps; or the bag can be bi-colored with the accent color on handles, straps, and sides.
- Bag stitching: Clients need to select the color of the stitching and its placement. Tonal colors mean the stitching will be the same color as the leather, (i.e. black leather with, say, white accents will have black stitching). Alternatively, the client could select contrast stitching on all or part of the bag (i.e. black leather with white accents will have white stitching). The client may elect a combination of contrast and tonal stitching (i.e. adding black stitching to the white leather and keeping the black stitching on the black leather). Finally, an adventurous client might decide to use a totally different color stitching on parts of the bag, such as opting for pink stitching on the white leather.
- Bag hardware: Clients can choose from gold and brushed gold or palladium and brushed palladium. We understand that rose gold has become another hardware option. While the brushed options are not as bright, it tends to resist scratches and has become a favorite among VIP buyers.
- Bag interiors: The bag interior is always in Chevre. Typically, the interior is in the accent color, but the client can choose the primary color as the interior color. Clients also have the option of modifying the pockets inside the bag.
- Strap length: It is our understanding that Hermes will be offering long straps on Special Order Kelly bags to enable them to be crossbody.
Finally, once recorded, the final design needs to be submitted for approval. If it doesn’t pass muster, then its back to the drawing board or the option for an HSS is lost until the next season.
Once approved and the order has been placed, it can take several months to several years until the bag reaches the client’s hands (exotic skins are the most time-consuming, and have been known to take up to three years until completion).
To be sure, the final product is very special. Due to their uniqueness and beauty, these bags sell at a high premium in the secondary market. Recent bi-color kellys and birkins in Epsom leather have sold for close to $40,000, while bi-color crocodile kellys and birkins have exceeded $100,000 to the buyer.