Hermes Faces Lawsuit for Not Mass-Producing Opulent Handbags

Tony Neil Thompson /
Tony Neil Thompson /

For years, people have been going crazy for the Birkin line from British luxury goods maker Hermes. First launched in 1984 following a chance encounter with the late actress Jane Birkin, who requested a travel line, the bags have become some of the ultimate symbols of wealth and luxury.

Even their most “basic” bags will run thousands of dollars, even in poor condition. That’s because this is the Mona Lisa of Hermes bags. Using top-quality materials, and handmaking the bag at every step of the process, this isn’t a rush job by any stretch of the imagination. Each bag takes a minimum of 18 hours to make, and the few people they have made them are trained for a minimum of five years before they even throw their first stick on a Birkin bag.

Now, two Northern California plaintiffs are suing the maker for making these bags so hard to get.

One alleges that they spent tens of thousands of dollars at Hermes and were then “coerced into purchasing Ancillary Products in order to obtain access to Hermès Birkin bags.” As a result, they were “unable to purchase another Birkin Handbag in September 2022.” The second plaintiff claims that he was told he would need to buy other items and accessories before a Birkin would even be up for discussion.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “If the seller offering the tied products has sufficient market power in the ‘tying’ product, these arrangements can violate the antitrust laws.”

However, Hermes retailers have little to no control over the Birkin line. With no notification about how many bags they will get in a quarter or even what models, it’s up to salespeople to let their best customers know about them when they pop up. This is a strange concept since this is the only area where they earn zero commission on the sale. Then again, maybe that’s what leads to the requirement that people buy so much before being “allowed” to buy a Birkin.

While Hermes alleges that they have never had a policy about who can buy a Birkin or what they would need to do to get one, there are countless tales of it happening, leaving no doubt that it has been a problem for some time.