How to get a Birkin bag, according to an Hermès insider

$12,000 will get you just about any handbag you want—except for a Birkin. Though that’s the average sticker price of the iconic handbag, cash is just one piece of the puzzle. Today, getting a Birkin straight from the Hermès store is harder than ever.

Only customers with an extensive purchase history at the French brand are offered the opportunity to buy “quota bags” such as the Birkin or the Kelly. This practice, dubbed the “Hermès Game,” has kept the bags exclusive—but it’s also ruffled many feathers. Two Californians recently sued the brand in a class-action lawsuit, alleging it employed antitrust tactics.

It was the Birkin’s artisan production and celebrity fanbase that first made it an “it bag” among luxury enthusiasts. But the rise of the resale market, where a Birkin can fetch double its sticker price, has since transformed it from fashion statement to hyped-up commodity. 

“You would need to be a loyal customer and maybe wait one to two years to get one,” said Joanna Uzunova, founder of vintage luxury resale platform Luxe Buyers’ Club. “In the grand scheme of things, if you’re really into the brand, it’s not a very long time. It’s the reward for patience.”

Uzunova worked in sales and visual merchandising at Hermès early in her career. Since leaving the brand, Uzunova has continued to shop there as a fan, and now owns more than 10 quota bags. Uzunova shares insights from both sides of the Hermès game on social media—and recently told Fortune her top three tips for scoring a quota bag.

But first, how much do you have to spend? In Uzunova’s experience, she had to reach a 1:1 spending ratio to qualify for a quota bag. In other words, to unlock the opportunity to buy a $12,000 Birkin, a shopper would first have to spend $12,000 on other products from the brand.

What you buy matters

Spending five figures at Hermès may not guarantee a quota bag, Uzunova said, as the products you buy matter as well. She pointed out several “bait” products in Hermès’ lineup—mainstream, entry-level products that may indicate to salespeople that the customer doesn’t know much about the brand. These include bracelets, the Oran sandal, and the “H” logo belt.

“There’s a difference there between those shoppers that are just now stepping into the brand,” she said. “And people who genuinely want the world of Hermès.”

Uzunova considers herself a “disciple” of the brand—a quality that Hermès looks for in its clients. 

In addition to clothing and accessories, Uzunova said she has purchased plates from the brand, learning about fine china and the differences between every set in the process. Her purchase history also includes gifts for friends and family. ”You don’t have to like everything you buy,” she said.

So what items would unlock a Birkin or Kelly? Hermès products are divided into several “metiers,” or categories. People who get offered bags more frequently are those who buy ready-to-wear products—clothing, jewelry, fine jewelry, and homeware, Uzunova said.

“A good spread across a good mix of categories will always play to your advantage,” she said.

Treat it like doing business

An Hermès sales associate can be the final gatekeeper of the Birkin bag. Sales associates tend to represent specific customers—while working with store managers to decide who gets offered a quota bag. Many customers exchange text messages with their sales associates, in order to ask about the items they have their eye on, or book shopping appointments directly.

“It’s kind of like texting someone who’s not interested in you,” Uzunova said, “because they’re dealing with probably hundreds of messages from people.”

Face-to-face interactions will earn shoppers more points in the game, she said, but the human element also frustrates many shoppers. What is considered acceptable behavior at an Hermès store can vary by location, Uzunova said. For example, in Greece, sales associates and store managers will immediately judge a shopper based on what they’re wearing. In the U.K., however, that’s not the most important factor.

“People sometimes can feel entitled when they walk into these boutiques,” she said. “But you have to imagine, if you treat someone in a really disinterested way or in a really condescending way, that is reflected back at you.”

At the end of the day, it’s a business relationship, Uzunova said, and shoppers should treat their dedicated sales associate like a business partner.

“It’s cloaked in so much mystery because it’s about human, interpersonal connections,” she said. “And it’s hard to play on just that.”

Be devoted to the brand

Sales associates can easily tell if someone is a true fan of the brand, Uzunova said, versus simply spending money in the hopes of scoring a bag.

“The brand has so much history, and they really want you to be a disciple for it,” she said.

Hermès, which was founded in 1837 as a maker of horse harnesses, is renowned for its craftsmanship. Its Birkin bags are handmade in France by artisans who reportedly have to train for five years. Birkin buyers are expected to know all of the above and more.

The pursuit of quota bags has become much more of a “race and chase” in the past decade, Uzunova said. And while there’s no way to fully guarantee a Birkin, she advises shoppers who want to get ahead in the race to truly take an interest in the brand.

“Know what you’re asking for, educate yourself on the leathers and colors,” she said. “And just be curious.”

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