Hermès Vocabulary: Anatomy of a Birkin Bag

Have you ever wondered what materials go into making the iconic Hermès Birkin bag? What are the names of all the components? How can you get your hands on one? And as a bonus, what are the true and false rumors about the Hermès Birkin? Let’s dive into the world of Hermès Birkin.

Firstly, to have a better understanding of where the Hermès Birkin come from and the reasons behind it’s popularity, I suggest you to check out my article Birkin Bag: the reasons behind the high value.

Hermès Birkin bag togo chai
Photo credit: Getty image

Furthermore, the classic Birkin bag has a very distinct design. Birkin bags have two handles, a flap closure, two leather buckle straps, and a turning knob with a loop for a padlock. Birkin bags also have four feet on the bottom to protect the leather base. However, larger sizes of the Birkin, such as the 50cm or 55cm, will have six feet.

Anatomy of a Birkin

Infographic by ParlezVousVintage
  • Poignets – The handles are made of rolled leather that match the color and material of the bag. However, in the case of a Special Order (SO) you can order alternative colors, stitching, and materials. In addition, you can use a Twilly scarves to decorate the handles. Adding a Twilly will protect the leather on the handles.
  • Signature ‘H’ Padlock – The ‘H’ padlock is used for locking the contents of the bag by placing it through the Touret. The H padlock usually comes in the same hardware as the rest of the bag.
  • Flap – This is the biggest difference when you want to distinguish a Kelly from a Birkin. The Flap is Birkin’s key attribute. A very precise craftsmanship with the flap has a meticulous design that ensures the front handle can rest comfortably when the flap is open and narrows at the gaps to secure the flap and maintain its flatness.
  • Clochette – meaning bell in English, is a leather designed lanyard and bell to hold keys that comes with the H padlock.
  • Sangles – two leather buckle straps that help fasten the bag. The Birkin bag adorns each Sangle with hardware plaques that match in color and material. For special orders, alternative materials may be used instead. Moreover, the date stamp for the bag is typically located on the underside of one of the Sangles.
  • Pontet – Very thin metal brackets placed on the bag to hold the buckle straps.
  • Touret – The center piece of the bag! The Touret can be turned to either keep the Sangles stacked in place or left open. This will give a more casual look to the bag.
  • Plaque – These hardware plaques are identical and positioned on each Sangle, with one of them featuring the “Hermès” engraving, indicating that it should be stacked above the other when fastened.
  • Pieds – the four feet at the bottom of the bag that protect the base of the bag from rough surfaces.

The different Birkin sizes

Birkin bag comes in different sizes such as:

  • 25cm
  • 30cm
  • 35cm
  • 40cm
  • 50cm

The Birkin 20 is the smallest size and is currently only available as a Limited Edition Birkin Faubourg.

Photo credit: WWD

Birkin Bag Retourné vs Sellier

Sellier: (probably about to be discontinued) stitching on the outside, angular shape. Much stiffer with an angular shape.

Retourné: In French, retourné means “reversed”, that is why the stitches are sewn inside out, which makes the edges of the bag very soft and a bit more rounded.

Hermès Birkin Contrast stitching vs Tonal stitching

Tonal stitching comes with special orders. It means that black stitching will be used on black leather, and you won’t see the stitching on the material or “craie on craie” (for light-colored bags). The stitching is a bit more discreet and elegant.

On the other hand, some people prefer to have contrast stitching, which means using a different color of stitching than the color of the bag. Contrast stitching is available on most bags offered in stores.

Below, on the left, is a picture of contrast stitching, and on the right is a picture of tonal stitching.

Birkin Colormatic Bags

For Spring/Summer 2022, Hermès released the Kelly and Birkin Colormatic bags. They are very special and rare to find. These bags have a zipper pocket on the front and a flat pocket on the back. The playful color combinations make the Birkin Colormatic bag highly sought after in the second-hand market, with a high resale value.

The Birkin Colormatic is available on a swift leather with gold hardware in 5 different colors:

  • Nata
  • Cuivre
  • Lime
  • Mauve sylvestre
  • Blue brume

Hermès Red Bags

Let’s compare 4 different red bags and their color intensity:

  • Tomate: Really bright
  • Casaque: Bright red
  • Rouge Vif: Strawberry tone
  • Rouge Grenat: Darker bordeaux tone
Birkin hermès red colors

The different leather that Hermès use for it bags:

Furthermore, Hermès organize their exotic leathers into a hierarchical structure of materials.

Among these, Alligator or Crocodile leathers occupy a tier of their own in terms of luxury, with crocodile being the most esteemed of this elite group.

Hermès Birkin 25 Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Palladium Hardware
Price: $250,000 USD

The different types of exotics leather that Hermès use by order of importance are:

  1. Porosus Croc: Hermès Crocodile Porosus comes from Australia and earns the title of the most expensive one due to its noticeable pores, which are located at the center of each scale. These pores, which resemble small dots, are responsible for the naming of Hermès Crocodile Porosus.
  2. Himalayan Niloticus (Nilo for short) comes from North Africa. The common belief is that the name implies the skin comes from that region, but in reality, it denotes the intricate dyeing process used to create a resemblance to the snowy peaks of the Himalayan mountains. Consequently, the steep price of the Himalaya Birkin comes from its composition of costly and difficult-to-dye Niloticus crocodile leather, as well as the potential inclusion of high-end hardware like white gold, palladium, and diamonds. Nevertheless, due to its scarcity, the Himalaya Birkin remains highly sought after and commands premium prices.
  3. Matte Alligator is farmed and sourced in the United-States. Hermès offers it in a matte and shiny version. Alligator leather is often used for smaller accessories due to uneven scales. Therefore, they often don’t pass the quality control requirement and are not uses for bags.
  4. Ostrich: From the 1990s Hermès offer this delicately spotted leather with a matte finish. The unique texture of ostrich skin, featuring a soft and matte finish as well as prominent quills, gives it a playful and versatile quality that sets it apart from other exotic skins. The skin’s natural polka-dot appearance exudes both charm and elegance.
  5. Ombré Lizard & Lizard first seen in 2004, these bags have a shiny component. Lizard are quite difficult to source and very rare. Many people consider Hermès Ombre Lizard bags as an alternative to the Nilo, as they feature natural white rings on a gray background that fade to white arches along the sides of the bag.
Photo credit: Sothebys
Hermès Etain Birkin 30 in Ostrich leather

The rarest Birkin in the world

Throngs of customers actively seek out the Parisian brand’s highly sought-after status-granting power, which comes from their timeless designs and superior quality. Hermès released 4:

  • Shadow Birkin
  • Cargo Birkin
  • Rainbow Birkin
  • Faubourg Birkin

Below a few celebrities that were Birkin as an every day bag:

Kylie Jenner Instagram
Hermès Birkin Faubourg
Victoria Beckham, bordeaux Porosus crocodile Birkin Hermès
Photo credit: Marie Claire

Special Orders at Hermès (aka S.O)

An SO, also known as HSS, allows you to customize your bag as you wish. You can choose everything, including the hardware, interior, handle, and sides. Therefore, the resulting piece is unique and custom-made just for you. A custom-made Hermès Special Order bag is the ultimate status symbol. On special order, Hermès bag have the tiny horse-shoe stamp that sits beside the brand stamp. This means that the bag has been custom made.

Favorite Neutral colors for Hermès bag

Hermès Birkin Chai
  • Trench
  • Chai (introduced in 2022 and extremely popular)
  • Gold

According to me, I find them very versatile to wear with everyday looks in both winter and summer. You can pair it with almost any outfit. My favorite is the gold hardware on the Togo leather.

Hermès Togo and Hermès Clemence, what are they?

First of all, when selecting a leather for your Hermès Birkin bag, it is essential to choose the right one, and Hermès offers several choices. Two common options are Clemence and Togo, both natural leathers sourced from the same place, the baby veau or “calf.” Although they may appear similar, there are some noticeable variations. Clemence leather, for instance, has a smoother texture, larger grains, and no veining than Togo.

In 1992, Hermès launched Taurillon Clemence leather, made from bullskin, which has an even wider and flatter grain than Togo. Clemence leather has a semi-matte finish, which gives a casual look to the bag, a slouchy appearance.

However, it’s crucial to note that Clemence leather is prone to blistering when exposed to rain and needs proper care.

Comparatively, Togo leather is the most famous material used for Hermès bags. With its fine pedbled appearance, the Togo bags maintain their shape over time. Togo leather has a natural irregular grain. This leather has a soft texture and grain size that provides excellent resistance against scratches.
In addition, Togo leather is lightweight, reflects light beautifully, and takes its name from the Togolese Republic in Africa.

As a matter of fact, when choosing between Togo and Clemence leather for your Birkin bag, it’s important to consider the intended use and care requirements of each option.

On the left, Clemence leather / On the right Togo leather

In conclusion, the Hermès Birkin bag is more than just a luxury handbag. Undoubtedly, it represents the epitome of exclusivity, elegance, and craftsmanship. This guide has provided an in-depth understanding of the history, design, and various features of the Hermès Birkin bag, including the materials used, the hardware options available, and the diverse range of colors and sizes. Whether you are an avid collector, a fashion enthusiast, or simply someone with a refined taste in handbags, the Hermès Birkin bag is undoubtedly an iconic fashion statement that will continue to captivate generations to come.

Meet Léa (pronounce Leah), a visual storyteller and fashion enthusiast who uses her skills to create captivating and engaging content for various mediums. With extensive knowledge and experience in the fashion industry, Léa provides valuable advice, opinion, and buyer guides to help readers make informed decisions and stay up-to-date with the latest fashion trends on Parlez Vous Vintage.

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