What the Hermès horseshoe stamp means to handbag collectors

What the Hermès horseshoe stamp means to handbag collectors

A guide to custom-made Hermès HSS bags, featuring the rarely found horseshoe stamp that makes them the ultimate prize

Among handbag collectors, a custom-made Hermès bag is considered the ultimate status symbol. Custom-made pieces, known as HSS bags, feature a special horseshoe stamp to the left of the Hermès stamp inside the bag. The emblem might be petite, but it significantly increases the value of the bag.

A custom Rose Tyrien & Ultraviolet Epsom Leather Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2013. Estimate €8,000-10,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A custom Rose Tyrien & Ultraviolet Epsom Leather Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2013. Estimate: €8,000-10,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

The special custom-made service is offered to only a select number of top collectors, with bespoke creations typically taking six months to arrive — although some collectors have to wait for as long as three years.

Each season, a pre-determined selection of Hermès handbags can be customised using certain materials and colours. The Birkin, the Kelly and the Constance are the most popular styles among collectors. After deciding on the personalised combinations, the final design is sent for approval before production can begin.

A custom Rose Azalée & Craie Epsom Leather Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2017. Estimate €8,000-10,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A custom Rose Azalée & Craie Epsom Leather Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2017. Estimate: €8,000-10,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

Special orders are frequently created in the most desirable shades of a particular season, and will often feature contrasting interiors and, in some cases, striking bi-colour and tri-colour variations.

Further customisation can include the addition of contrasting stitching, or bespoke hardware such as brushed gold, brushed palladium and rose gold. Details such as pocket location, strap length and initials represent further customisable options that are available to the lucky few.

On the custom Kelly Bag shown below, the Craie shade is beautifully contrasting with the iconic Étoupe colour. Stitching is also a prominent feature on the Sellier design.

A custom Craie & Étoupe Epsom Leather Sellier Kelly 25, with brushed gold hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate €10,000-12,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

A custom Craie & Étoupe Epsom Leather Sellier Kelly 25, with brushed gold hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate: €10,000-12,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories on 3-17 November 2022 at Christie’s Online

As customisations become more intricate, pieces becomes ever more exclusive. An Ostrich Birkin 35 is already a special bag, but in a tri-colour variation, such as the example below, it becomes a genuine rarity.

A custom Parchemin, Marron Foncé & Rouge VIF Ostrich Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2008. Sold for HK$125,000 on 29 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A custom Parchemin, Marron Foncé & Rouge VIF Ostrich Birkin 35, with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2008. Sold for HK$125,000 on 29 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Hermès limited-edition bags are usually released to mark a special event. Produced in extremely small batches, they are highly sought after and, not surprisingly, very difficult to obtain.

A custom Matte Cactus Alligator & Craie Swift Leather Quelle Idole, with gold hardware, Hermès, 2018. Sold for HK$687,500 on 29 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A custom Matte Cactus Alligator & Craie Swift Leather Quelle Idole, with gold hardware, Hermès, 2018. Sold for HK$687,500 on 29 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Quelle Idole bag, also known as the Kelly Doll, was released in 2000. Designed by Jean-Louis Dumas, the Chief Executive of Hermès, the Quelle Idole has become increasingly rare over the past two decades. Recently made available for custom order, it now represents the ultimate combination of exclusivity and rarity.