Helena Lyng Blak
8 weeks ago

Hermès sued over Birkin bags

The iconic bag is too hard to buy, claims the antitrust suit.
Green Hermes Birkin with dust bag against black background
Camera Rules / Shutterstock.com

In a California class-action lawsuit, customers allege that the French luxury design house Hermès is violating antitrust laws with its sales practices of Birkin bags.

The Birkin

Birkin bags are among the world’s most expensive and exclusive designer bags. Introduced in 1984, the tote bag was named after American-French ‘it girl’ extraordinaire, Jane Birkin.

The Birkin is highly coveted and revered among collectors, and the fashion industry at large, adored for its simple yet recognizable design, the craftsmanship in each bag, and, not least, its status symbol value.

The bags’ retail prices are somewhat secretive, but pre-owned Birkin bags start at around $10,000 at auction houses such as Sotheby’s, going as high as $355,000, with a record sale at $380,000.

However, the Birkin’s elusiveness and exclusivity are not just about the price; it's also about the opaque process of “getting to” buy one of Hermès’ iconic bags—a process now challenged legally.

The lawsuit

The proposed federal class-action lawsuit alleges Hermès is violating antitrust legislation by gatekeeping the Birkin bag, requiring customers to purchase an “appropriate” amount of other products from the fashion house first.

One might call it an open secret. For years, hundreds, if not thousands of social media accounts on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, have dedicated content to the alleged process of acquiring a Birkin bag.

Typically, content creators suggest that to buy a Birkin bag as a “regular person” (i.e., not a celebrity), one must build a rapport with local Hermès store sales associates by purchasing other products. Customers might share their dream Birkin bag’s desired size, color, or material with a sales associate, and then, perhaps one day, a bag might be offered—though it may not match the exact model desired.

This is, in essence, what the lawsuit claims as well.

According to AP News, the suit states that “These sales associates are directed by Defendants [Hèrmes] to only offer Birkin handbags to consumers who have established a sufficient ‘purchase history’ or ‘purchase profile’ with Defendants or Defendants’ ancillary products such as shoes, scarves, belts, jewelry and home goods.” 

The plaintiffs aim to obtain monetary compensation and a judicial injunction against the sales practices it claims Hèrmes uses.

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