A guide to the most coveted limited edition Hermès Birkin bags

A guide to the most coveted limited edition Hermès Birkin bags

Discover the history behind the Faubourg, Ghillies and Sunrise Birkins — and other rare designs

What happens when one of the world’s most exclusive bags gets even rarer? Hermès only produces a limited quantity of its iconic Birkin each year, making the maison’s special editions, released every few years, incredibly difficult to get one’s hands on.

Created from start to finish by one craftsman, these handbags come in an array of materials and colours, and demand has never been higher. In November 2020, a Birkin auction record was set for a Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 25, which achieved HK$3,000,000 ($388,000) at Christie’s in Hong Kong.

Here, we delve into the limited-edition styles, which range from uniquely utilitarian designs to dramatic pieces made in collaboration with renowned designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier.

  • 1
  • The Shadow Birkin

At once dramatic yet understated, the Shadow Birkin was first introduced in 2009 by famed French designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès’s creative director from 2003 to 2010. A decade later, Hermès re-released the bag in limited numbers.

Gaultier made his mark on the house by reinterpreting classic styles in contemporary ways. For the Shadow, he sought to create a trompe-l’œil effect through the illusion of a top flat and sangles, shown casually strewn. In reality, the design is a raised impression, making it the only Birkin to stray from the traditional structure.

A limited edition gold Evercalf Leather Shadow Birkin 25, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate €15,000-20,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition gold Evercalf Leather Shadow Birkin 25, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate: €15,000-20,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

  • 2
  • The Club Birkin

One of the sportiest designs from the house, the Club Birkin was produced in 2012. Similar to the 2017 Touch Birkin, the Club often showcases exotic materials in its signature pair of vertical stripes.

Yet, like the later Sunrise Rainbow, colour-blocking is key. Therefore, the Club always includes a contrasting centre panel.

  • 3
  • The Ghillies Birkin

One of Hermès’s most coveted and hard-to-find designs is the Ghillies, which is distinguished by its decorative trim.

Introduced in 2012, the Ghillies was an extension of the haute bijouterie jewellery collection produced in 2011 by Pierre Hardy, artistic director of jewellery at Hermès. The design is inspired by a Scottish men’s dress shoe of the same name, which has perforations known as ‘broguing’ that help the shoe dry more efficiently after outdoor activity.

Hardy drew from his own heritage and adapted it into something stylish and functional — the brogue, translated into a women’s bag, makes it look even more feminine and detailed.

A limited-edition Denim and Black Swift Leather Ghillies Birkin 35, with brushed palladium hardware, Hermès, 2013. Sold for £10,000 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

A limited-edition Denim and Black Swift Leather Ghillies Birkin 35, with brushed palladium hardware, Hermès, 2013. Sold for £10,000 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

A limited-edition Étoupe and Argile Swift Leather Ghillies Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2012. Sold for £10,625 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

A limited-edition Étoupe and Argile Swift Leather Ghillies Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2012. Sold for £10,625 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

  • 4
  • The Touch Birkin

Released in 2017, the Touch Birkin is Hermès’s answer to collectors looking for a hint of exotic material on their bags. This style is available in a variety of jewel tones and features a leather body with an alligator or crocodile top flap. Occasionally, other parts of the bag will also be highlighted by pops of exotic leather.

While Birkins are typically worn open, the Touch best presents its exceptional details when worn closed.

A limited edition Matte Framboise Alligator & Togo Leather Touch Birkin 30, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate €15,000-20,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition Matte Framboise Alligator & Togo Leather Touch Birkin 30, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate: €15,000-20,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

  • 5
  • The Tressage Birkin

Bags from Hermès’s Tressage, or ‘braided,’ collection are defined by their panels of multicoloured woven leather. The Birkin iteration was introduced in 2018 and only produced in three colourways. It comes exclusively in 30 and 35cm sizes.

While most handbags in the Tressage collection are accented with woven handles, it is rarer to find pieces, such as this Rouge de Coeur Birkin that has a tonal red pattern down its centre.

A limited edition Bleu Encre Swift, Bleu du Nord and Gold Epsom Leather Tressage Birkin 30, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2019. Sold for £16,250 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition Bleu Encre Swift, Bleu du Nord and Gold Epsom Leather Tressage Birkin 30, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2019. Sold for £16,250 on 23 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

  • 6
  • The Faubourg Birkin

One of Hermès’s latest ‘Holy Grail’ bags, the Faubourg Birkin was first introduced in a very limited edition at the end of 2019. Originally making its debut in two colourways, brown and navy, Hermès has now dazzled collectors with a new version in Beton. The style of the bag is modelled after the façade of the Hermès flagship at 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and comes complete with orange awnings and a clochette designed after the house's iconic orange shopping bag.

The Faubourg is the first Birkin Bag ever to be crafted in a 20 centimetre size, and it is finished with sleek Sellier stitching, a detail typically reserved for Kelly bags and very uncommon for Birkin bags.

  • 7
  • The Sunrise Rainbow Birkin

First produced in 2020, the Sunrise Rainbow is an exclusive Birkin finished with Sellier stitching. Generally reserved for the houses's Kelly handbags, ‘sellier’ refers to the visible outside stitching which gives the bag a crisper, more structured shape.

An eye-catching design that is perfect for the summer season, this handbag’s colour-blocked effect combines Lime, Rose Confetti, Terre Battue, and Sesame. The interior is lined with Sesame Chevre, while tonal stitching on the exterior further reflects Hermès’s impeccable craftsmanship.

A limited edition Abricot, Bleu Agate, Magnolia & Rouge Casaque Epsom Leather Sunset Rainbow Sellier Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate €10,000-15,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition Abricot, Bleu Agate, Magnolia & Rouge Casaque Epsom Leather Sunset Rainbow Sellier Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate: €10,000-15,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

  • 8
  • The Cargo Birkin

Making its debut in 2020, the Cargo Birkin is another one of Hermès’s newest limited-edition styles. Crafted in lightweight canvas and sporting five outer pockets, it is the most functional Birkin to date.

At its conception in 1981, the Birkin bag was celebrated for its practicality in comparison to other bags at the time. Nearly 40 years later, Hermès has cleverly played on that original principle of practicality with the addition of something for those busy mornings on the go — a coffee cup holder.

A limited edition Bleu Nuit Canvas & Black Swift Leather Cargo Birkin 25, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2022. Estimate €20,000-28,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition Bleu Nuit Canvas & Black Swift Leather Cargo Birkin 25, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2022. Estimate: €20,000-28,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

  • 9
  • The Cavalcadour (limited-edition Kelly)

Henri d’Origny joined Hermès in 1958, and designed many of the scarves, watches and jewellery that are loved by collectors today. Several of d’Origny’s designs were reinterpretations of traditional Hermès motifs.

A limited edition Toile de Camp Cavalcadour & Black Swift Leather Sellier Kelly 32, with palladium hardware, Hermès. Sold for €23,940 on 23 June 2022 at Christie’s Online

A limited edition Toile de Camp Cavalcadour & Black Swift Leather Sellier Kelly 32, with palladium hardware, Hermès. Sold for €23,940 on 23 June 2022 at Christie’s Online

When he inserted a rectangular watch face into the link of Chaîne d’Ancre, for example, the Cape Cod was born. He also created the cavalcadour pattern for a silk carré in 1981. The colourful celebration of harnesses on the bag recalls the equestrian pieces that Thierry Hermès first offered in 1837. In 2017, Hermès released this motif on a limited-edition Kelly available only to VIPs.