A Birkin lawsuit unpacks fashion’s scarcity model

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The Future. A new class-action lawsuit claims it’s so hard for people to score a Hermès Birkin bag that it should be illegal. While the lawsuit isn’t likely to succeed, thanks to a lack of set standards for choosing a would-be Birkin buyer, the case could put a spotlight not just on other fashion brands but also other pay-for-access models, like some private memberships and NFTs.

Demanding supply
Two Hermès ultra-fans are very upset about not getting the golden ticket to purchase a Birkin bag.

  • The plaintiffs allege that the luxury brand is breaking US antitrust laws by requiring would-be Birkin buyers to have made several other purchases to get the chance to buy the rare bag.
  • That’s a concept called “tying,” which is “when the sale of one product is made on the condition of purchasing another product” and also must be from a company that has “enough market power to restrain the free trade of a good,” per Business of Fashion.

Is there any merit to the suit? For starters, the production of Birkin bags is tightly controlled because there’s far more demand than supply, which helps maintain the bag’s appeal. The difficulty of scoring one is so well-reported that TikTok and Reddit are even filled with ways of hacking “the Hermès game” to win over employees.

But it’s the arbitrary leeway that salespeople are given to offer the bags — sometimes to loyal customers, sometimes to those on a waitlist, sometimes on a first-come, first-served basis — that will probably complicate the case. It’s all too random to be proven as company-wide gatekeeping.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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