Insider’s Guide to Hermès Special Orders

Tips to Create a Timeless Special Order

Twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, devoted Hermès lovers hope for the opportunity to create their very own Birkin or Kelly. Only a select number of lucky VIP customers are offered the opportunity to become a member of the exclusive horseshoe club. If you’re fortunate enough to be “chosen”, you surely want to get it right.

Below we let you in on our secrets to creating the best SO for you. Learn from our experiences and avoid some common mistakes. Plus, a special unboxing 17 months in the making is revealed.


In March 2020, the global pandemic interrupted the spring Special Order season. All Hermès stores in the United States and Europe shuttered, as well as the factory in France. A few stores in Australia, Hong Kong and later China were open and able to offer some fortunate customers the opportunity to create their own custom bag in 2020. If you were one of the rare customers to place your Spring Special Order prior to mid-March 2020, hopefully you already received your bag or it’s on its way.


How to Create a Truly “Special” Special Order

There are numerous ways to make your custom quota bag look like a “Special Order”. Beyond the signature horseshoe stamp signifying its Special Order status, there are other ways to make your bag stand out.

1. Two different color leathers:  Choose two leather colors for  the outside of your Birkin or Kelly, or one color on the inside and a different color on the outside, also known as a verso bag.

2. Contrast stitching: Choose any color contrasting stitching on the outside of your bag.

3. Special hardware:  Brushed Gold, Brushed Palladium, or Permabrass hardware, only offered on Special Orders.

4. Longer shoulder strap for the Kelly: There are 3 options; 85cm, 105cm, or 120cm.

5. Leather Choices: Clemence, Swift, Chevre, Epsom, Togo, Ostrich, Crocodile and Alligator.


Leather Colors Offered Each Year

Of course, a Special Order does not mean ‘anything goes’. In fact, Hermès decides the leather and color choices offered each season. Each season Hermès lovers eagerly await the release of the options.

This season’s new colors on the A La Carte Colorama 2021 chart were recently leaked on Instagram. Fortunately, the options do not disappoint. Pink lovers are ecstatic with the addition of Rose Sakura and Mauve Sylvester. Pastel lovers will be happy to see Blue Brume, Jaune Poussin, and Vert Criquet. Classic color lovers will see Craie, Nata, Beton, Etoupe, Gris Tourterelle, and many more.

Insider’s Tip - Second Color Choice

Hermès allows you to choose two different color leathers for your SO. However, what is often not discussed, and seldom revealed before you arrive to place your order, is that your “second color” must be chosen from a separate shorter list of leather colors. Hence, the A La Carte Linings Colorama chart. This sheet contains the only leather colors you may choose as the second color of your bag.

Here’s how it works in actuality. Assume you choose the color Craie in Epsom leather as your primary bag color. You believe you can choose any other Epsom color listed for your second color such as Blue Brume or Mauve Sylvester. But this is incorrect.

Your second color MUST come from the sheet entitled Linings Colorama irrespective of the type of leather you choose. This is crucial to understand because Blue Brume and Mauve Sylvester (for example) are not on this chart. For all your pre-order planning, this chart can potentially derail your selections.

We recommend that you FIRST choose your second color from the A La Carte Linings Colorama chart. This list usually contains approximately 25 different colors. Once you choose your second (or Lining) color, you can move on to the main A La Carte Colorama chart to choose your first or primary color.


Common Special Order Mistakes

It is very exciting, but also very scary, to create a Special Order quota bag. Without a picture of what your custom quota bag will look like in advance, the process can cause a lot of anxiety. Should you decide to use two colors on the outside of your Birkin or Kelly, or contrast stitching in a color that has never been used before, there is no guarantee you will love your creation.

It is wise to do your research. Read every PurseBop article on Special Orders. Search the internet, reseller sites, and social media for photos of Birkins and Kellys in different color combinations and hardware. Be aware though, the reason there are so many brand new Special Order quota bags on reseller sites is likely because the color combination selected was disappointing. Choose two colors that complement each other, do not clash, and will not ruin the classic look of your quota bag.


However, you may get lucky and find a photo of a special order bag you absolutely love. If the colors are offered that season, you can order the same combination.

On the other hand, when creating from scratch, despite the above-discussed limitations, there is a plethora of variation. . . and decision-making. One option is to play it safe and order one color on the outside and a different color inside (known as a verso bag). Two favorite colors at that moment in time? Do you want to use both?

Perhaps, you desire to go outside your comfort zone and try something new. Maybe a pop of color to accent your mostly neutral collection. Or a neutral color which you hope will stand the test of time and be a forever piece in your collection.

Whichever path you choose, you will have many months to agonize over your final decision. Placing the order often does not end the wonder and worry about whether you chose correctly (for you).

5 Tips to Avoid Making Costly Mistakes

Based on our experience and knowledge over the past 10 years, some fairly common mistakes can be relatively easily avoided. We learned the hard way… but you don’t need to. Following the below suggestions will assist you in customizing the best SO bag for you.

1. Do your research. Speak to as many people as possible. Read every Pursebop article on Special Orders. Educate yourself on the color choices, leather choices, and hardware choices available during your season. Scour the internet, social media, and reseller sites for examples of color combinations that work and don’t work. Remember, someone ordered this color, leather and hardware combination. A year or more later they decided it did not fit into their collection, lifestyle or taste.

2. Make color choices that create a timeless, classic bag that will stand the test of time. Do not choose outrageous color combinations that you could tire of easily. Your SO is not meant to be a trendy or seasonal bag. It should be a classic bag that will endure lifestyle changes, color preferences, maturity level, and fashion trends. It should be a quota bag that will be in your collection forever.

3. Consider whether to order a longer Kelly shoulder strap. The standard Kelly shoulder strap is 85cm. For a Kelly SO you may order a 105cm or 120cm shoulder strap to wear it crossbody. Be forewarned, unless you are 6 feet tall, the 120cm will be too long on the average torso, even wearing it crossbody. The 105cm is more appropriate and allows the use of the Kelly as a crossbody bag or as a shoulder bag over a winter coat.

Do not order a longer shoulder strap for your Kelly unless you are positive you want to wear your Kelly crossbody all the time. The longer strap may prevent you from wearing it as a regular shoulder bag on a daily basis.

On the other hand, if you are ordering a mini Kelly II, a longer strap is a good option. Most people find the standard mini Kelly strap a bit short to wear crossbody.


4. Consider the timeline. How will your taste or lifestyle change in the next 12-18+ months? Are there any life changing events in the future that may affect the color, leather, size or type of quota bag you choose? Are you expecting a child, traveling, embarking on a new career, or moving to a new city with a different climate?

5. Make your quota bag special. Do not order a combination that can be purchased in store if offered. For instance, a Gold Birkin with contrasting Craie stitching is offered in store. Even though this combination is at the top of your wishlist, you will likely get offered that combination sometime in the future. Use your special order invitation to create a customized, forever bag that will remind you of this unique experience.

Every Hermès collector knows there are growing pains when building a well curated collection of Birkins and Kellys. Your tastes will likely change over the years. It may be the color, the size, the leather, the hardware or even the bag type that will evolve. Your first quota bag may have been a Birkin. Now you prefer a Kelly because of the hands free option, the understated elegance, or its anonymity. Maybe your color palette has changed. You started as a neutral lover but now find yourself attracted to a pop of color.

You may have rehomed your Birkin 35s acquired early in your journey to make room for new smaller preferences. If you started your collection more than 5 years ago, it is likely that your first Birkin was 35cm. The B35 was the holy grail size for decades before the “mini craze” emerged. It did not matter if you were tall or short, petite or average size, it had to be a classic Birkin 35. When it became clear the mini craze was here to stay, even Hermès began producing smaller sizes of all its bags. Today, the Birkin 30 is likely the most popular size, although many of us would argue that the B25 and K25 is the “perfect size.”


Finally, there are many leather choices. You likely started your collection wanting only Togo leather because that is the most popular, durable, and takes color so well. Once you experience other leather choices such as Clemence, Evercolor, Epsom, Chévre, Barenia, Veau Madame, Box, and Swift you will appreciate each leather’s distinct characteristic and love them all.

There is a size, style, color, and leather to fit everyone’s tastes. The beauty of curating a well rounded collection is appreciating all the options Hermès offers. This is where the special order process comes full circle. It allows you to choose something unique, something you do not have, and something you appreciate about Hermès.

Reveal: Creating a Timeless and Unique Special Order

The day has finally come. Your SA invites you to create your first Special Order (SO). You have dreamed of this day, hoped for it, and even asked for it in your wishlist. You did your research, read every article published by Pursebop, studied Instagram photos and resale websites. You have spoken to friends, relatives, strangers, and your SA about the process, the choices, the timeline, and all the details associated with placing a special order.

What are you going to choose? Keep reading to find out what @karenzkloset chose for her first Special Order bag and what influenced her choices. Did she make the right choices, or did she make any mistakes?

@karenzkloset’s Spring/Summer 2020 Special Order Reveal

Those lucky few who were able to create a Special Order quota bag prior to the global shut-down in mid-March, 2020 have started to receive their bags. I created my very first special order on February 27, 2020, two weeks before the shut down. It arrived 17 months later, in July 2021. Here is my journey.

My H fairy surprised me on Valentine’s Day, 2020 with a red rose and an invitation to create my first special order quota bag in the next few weeks. Although I had been thinking about this day for over a year, I did my research, read every PurseBop article on SOs, found a copy of the Colorama SS2020 sheet on Instagram, studied the colors and leather choices, and had a plan. Or so I thought…

For my first SO, I wanted all the items I could not get on an in-store quota bag offer. I chose a Kelly 25 Sellier with two colors on the outside, brushed palladium hardware, in Chévre leather, and an extra long strap. My first choice was a Craie Kelly with Gris Mouette as my second color. But Craie was not offered in Chévre leather and Gris Mouette was not listed on any color chart. My second choice was a pink Kelly but there was only one pink choice in Chévre leather and it was not the pink I was hoping for.

When I arrived for my appointment, my SA informed me that I had to pick my second color first! What? No one had ever spoken of this fact. I was not prepared to do that. I was confused.

My SA helped me examine the “Linings Colorama” chart to choose the second color for my Kelly 25. Again, the colors were so limited that there really was no choice for me but Gris Perle. The only pink was Rose Pourpre but I already have a Kelly in RP. Then I chose Noir Chévre as my primary color and proceeded to make my other choices.

The hardware choice was easy. I prefer palladium hardware and brushed palladium would be perfect with Gris Perle. Then came the shoulder strap. I wanted (so I thought) to wear my Kelly Sellier as a crossbody bag. I could only do that by ordering the extra long shoulder strap. I do not remember having two choices for the length but I am sure I said I want the longest strap offered. I was adamant in my choices at that time even though I had no idea how the long strap would sit on my body. Huge mistake!

Then the Pandemic hit. All I could think was “I will never get my SO.” Paris and the Hermès factory were shut down for months. All of 2020 was lost. Beginning in January, 2021 I started to obsess over my special order. My SA only worked three days a week at that time. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for months I waited for her text that my special order had arrived. That text never came.

By April, I forced myself to stop thinking about it. I knew the only person with control over my Kelly was the artisan creating my SO. And that person was faced with the Pandemic just like everyone else.

On May 11, 2021 my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. For a moment I thought he would surprise me with my SO. There were wrapped presents similar in size to a Kelly 25 box. I could feel a ribbon underneath the wrapping paper. I got excited! But no SO. He got us a pair of beautiful Hermès St. Louis crystal candlesticks and unique wine glasses.

My birthday is July 17. For a week I joked with my husband that my SA called to say he was late for his appointment to pick up my birthday present. He humored me and told me he was on his way, but he never left the house.

On my birthday we went to the Hollywood Bowl with our twins to see Christina Aguilera. She performed her heart out and it was a magical evening. We arrived home late and I was tired. But tradition dictates and we had to celebrate with birthday cake and presents. At this point, I did not expect anything special and just wanted to go to sleep.

My husband had three gifts for me, one small, one medium, and one very large box. Inside the large box was a second wrapped box. When I lifted the box I could feel a ribbon under the wrapping paper. I started to get excited.

But the box was the size of my Birkin 25 box, not my Kelly 25 box. It couldn’t be my SO at this point. I unwrapped the box and discovered a completely sealed orange box with a ribbon on top. Initially I wondered: how did my husband convince my SA to let him take this box home still sealed with the plastic wrap? My second thought was: it could not be my SO because the box size was all wrong.

My daughter videotaped the unboxing…

I proceeded to untie the Hermes ribbon, break open the cellophane and open the box. As I pulled the bag out of the dust bag all I could do was scream!


I was surprised and excited at the same time to finally receive my special order! It took 17 months to arrive and I could not have been happier. It was perfect!

But was it?

From the moment I placed my special order, I agonized over my choices. I could not find a photo of a similar Kelly anywhere. I found a Birkin but that was not the same. I wondered whether I would love it? I worried I ruined a perfectly good black Kelly in Chévre by adding a second color? Should I have picked Craie in Epsom instead? I tortured myself. Then a friend sent me a photo of a Kelly with the same color combination I chose but with contrast stitching. I did not do contrast stitching so I still was not sure I would love my bag.

When I pulled the Kelly out of the dust bag for the first time I still was not sure I loved my creation. I hesitated. I stared at it. I put it in different areas of my house that night. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. staring at it.

Then it hit me! After two hours  – I loved it!!! It literally took me that long to decide I loved my new Kelly 25 special order choices.


Well, not all of them.

What I do not love is the extra long shoulder strap I ordered. It was clear to me in mere seconds that the 120cm shoulder strap was a huge mistake! Waaay too long for my height. It is even too long to wear as a crossbody bag!

I also realized that crossbody bags do not look good on me in general. Even with my black mini Evelyn crossbody, I only like it when worn with with black clothing. That allows it to blend into my ensemble.

A Kelly Sellier, for example, does not lay flat against my body. Nor should it because of its structure and formal design; the two things I love about it. The Kelly Retourne might be better as a crossbody bag, but it’s not for me.


As a result, I was disappointed in myself for making this costly mistake. Now I cannot use my Kelly as a shoulder bag. I spoke with my SA the following week about my situation. She was able to order me a new 85cm strap! But there is no way to know how long it will take. Maybe another 17 months? And my H boutique is able to shorten my 120cm strap by 10cm. I will have that done but it will still be too long to wear as a shoulder bag. So for now I will live with my error until my new strap arrives.


Final Thoughts

A funny thing happened just last weekend. During the entire 17 months I waited for my SO, I never found a photo of an identical Kelly Sellier. Then @fnch310 received her Special Order and posted a beautiful unboxing. It is the identical bag I ordered! But she was smart and ordered the 105cm shoulder strap. She placed her order two weeks earlier than me at her boutique on the east coast of the U.S. while mine was placed from the west coast.

Congratulations @fnch310! We are twinning.


I hope sharing my journey has given you valuable information to prepare you for this truly special experience.



Published: September 3rd, 2021
Updated: April 18th, 2022

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.