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Should I or shouldn't I: custom wallet?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
A few weeks ago I was in Paris and walked into the Hermes store with my fiance, who wanted an agenda cover (no, this doesn't end up the same way as that other thread wink.gif). While she was looking I went into the wallet section and asked to see card cases. Loved the interior layout of one of them (two vertical pockets and a longer, horizontal pocket on each side for a total of six; the number of cards I carry). However, they didn't have a leather/color I loved, and for 445 euro before VAT refund, I thought I'd better love it. Well, after I got back I started thinking that if I were spending that, I should just get something made...

So, I emailed Valextra to ask about custom jobs. They came back telling me it was doable, I could have a case made to those specifications (same size, six pockets) and that the price would end up being the same as Hermes OTR (since I would only have received 12% VAT back on Hermes but the full 19% if ordering from Valextra direct to the US).

However, I've never had custom leather goods done before, and this is something their artisans would be making from scratch (so I don't have a sample to look at before I do it). On the one hand, I think it's very cool to have something one of a kind, but on the other it's a lot of money and I won't be able to see it until it's done and has shipped.

I know that there are other companies who do custom leather work, but Valextra is my favorite and if I were going to do it I'd go with them 100%.

I'd be very interested to hear people's thoughts on the subject. I'm guessing that nobody here has ordered custom from Valextra, since even here it's still a bit uncommon, but I'd appreciate the thoughts of anyone who's considered commissioning something that was in essence "made to measure" vs. "made to order".
post #2 of 16
We can't discuss that at this time.
post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chevron View Post

We can't discuss that at this time.


Why ever not?

This is one for you entirely, if the [rice is something that you are happy to pay then it is worthwhile. If you search you will find Foo's experience of having a wallet made - it was a handsome thing.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GBR View Post

Why ever not?

This is one for you entirely, if the [rice is something that you are happy to pay then it is worthwhile. If you search you will find Foo's experience of having a wallet made - it was a handsome thing.

That post was actually a reference to Foo's initial experience wink.gifbiggrin.gif.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevron View Post

We can't discuss that at this time.

Hilarious! I almost feel as if this tangent deserves a thread of it's own, but I was just thinking about this ordeal yesterday. Just wanted to check and see how the Hermes prices in the US compared to Europe (to know whether that would actually be less expensive here, but some off chance) I called the men's store in NY to find out.

I asked if they had the case I'd seen in stock. She told me that they couldn't discuss stock levels of leather goods over the phone. I asked her why on earth not; I wasn't trying to order, just to see whether the piece even existed. Response: sorry, we cannot discuss that over the phone, only in person. I asked for the manager. He told me the same thing; it was store policy. I was dumbfounded and asked why. His response was something like: "We have people calling in to ask about stock levels for various reasons (pause) so we've decided we don't discuss that over the phone". I said "So you expect me to come into the city and make my way to your store, just to see if you even have an item in stock to begin with?" He said that was correct.

I don't know what world he lives in, but most of the people I know who are even considering wallets of that price probably don't have that kind of spare time (not that it would really matter; the "two hours from the city" for me is by plane, and I'm definitely not making a trip over it!!!!!). I then called the Vegas store who was happy to tell me they had it and the price in dollars, which was significantly more than the custom job from Valextra would turn out to be.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimelesStyle View Post

Hilarious! I almost feel as if this tangent deserves a thread of it's own, but I was just thinking about this ordeal yesterday. Just wanted to check and see how the Hermes prices in the US compared to Europe (to know whether that would actually be less expensive here, but some off chance) I called the men's store in NY to find out.

I asked if they had the case I'd seen in stock. She told me that they couldn't discuss stock levels of leather goods over the phone. I asked her why on earth not; I wasn't trying to order, just to see whether the piece even existed. Response: sorry, we cannot discuss that over the phone, only in person. I asked for the manager. He told me the same thing; it was store policy. I was dumbfounded and asked why. His response was something like: "We have people calling in to ask about stock levels for various reasons (pause) so we've decided we don't discuss that over the phone". I said "So you expect me to come into the city and make my way to your store, just to see if you even have an item in stock to begin with?" He said that was correct.

I don't know what world he lives in, but most of the people I know who are even considering wallets of that price probably don't have that kind of spare time (not that it would really matter; the "two hours from the city" for me is by plane, and I'm definitely not making a trip over it!!!!!). I then called the Vegas store who was happy to tell me they had it and the price in dollars, which was significantly more than the custom job from Valextra would turn out to be.

Wow. That's pretty bad and makes me think Foo's experience may not be so atypical (though Foo was more persistent than most which probably contributed to the saga). I don't think I'd do business with a store that can't even answer a basic question about whether they have something in stock over the phone. Time is money.
post #6 of 16
It's about creating and promoting exclusivity. Hermes has decided that they don't have to cater to anyone since they'll get business all the same. People in your position who are turned away will not affect their bottom line, and they'd rather maintain their snootiness over building a returning clientele.

I don't exactly fault them, since they're a private entity and can do whatever the hell they want. Don't get me wrong, I would never give them business; however, that their position can stir such controversy can only feed into their reputation, for better or for worse. I think the book "Bringing Home the Birkin" was mentioned in Foo's thread somewhere. It was quite a good read, and explains so much on what Hermes's business model is.

But I'm sure they can't discuss that at this time.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayward View Post

It's about creating and promoting exclusivity. Hermes has decided that they don't have to cater to anyone since they'll get business all the same. People in your position who are turned away will not affect their bottom line, and they'd rather maintain their snootiness over building a returning clientele.

I don't exactly fault them, since they're a private entity and can do whatever the hell they want. Don't get me wrong, I would never give them business; however, that their position can stir such controversy can only feed into their reputation, for better or for worse. I think the book "Bringing Home the Birkin" was mentioned in Foo's thread somewhere. It was quite a good read, and explains so much on what Hermes's business model is.

But I'm sure they can't discuss that at this time.

I agree with almost everything you say, just one small caveat: Hermes is actually a publicly traded company, so they are beholden to their shareholders and have an obligation to maximize their returns.



I'm not exactly opposed to their position that they don't do phone orders on leather goods; when things are in somewhat limited quantities it may be better to keep the stock in the B&M store so it can be viewed (especially with something like leather, that has to be seen to be fully appreciated). However, to not let someone know if it's worth their while to come in doesn't add to the brand's mystique other than to make people dumbfounded as to how this is a good idea.

I also started thinking that, at the main Paris store, the reason they purposefully keep the leather section understaffed, thereby creating a queue that stretches around the store (one I refused to wait on, opting instead to go to the St. Germain store, which is much, much nicer) is so that people will buy whatever happens to be there when they get to the front. Come in looking for a brown bag and all there is is chartreuse? Normally that's a pass. But when you've waited for an hour to even look you don't want it to all be for nothing.

Someone will eventually need to tell Valextra that if they want to be the "Italian Hermes" they'd better stop treating customers so well and being so accommodating tongue.gif. Well, someone should tell them that after I order a wallet wink.gif.
post #8 of 16
I like Valextra but the leather strikes as relatively thin and fairly fragile. Maybe you are looking for something thin, but I would much prefer the Hermes. I just think the leather is more substantial and of better quality than anything else out there.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

I like Valextra but the leather strikes as relatively thin and fairly fragile. Maybe you are looking for something thin, but I would much prefer the Hermes. I just think the leather is more substantial and of better quality than anything else out there.

Which Valextra leather are you referring to? I currently use one of their card cases and it didn't feel thinner than the Hermes I looked at. Then again I am looking for thin overall; this is a card case for front pocket use not a large wallet meant to go in a coat or back pocket.

I also think that Valextra recently switched from a stamped calf skin to a full grain for most pieces; if you look at items on their website you see a price difference between the smooth leather (cheapest), stamped (middle) and full grain (most expensive). However I agree that Hermes is very nice though dealing with them seems to be a pain and for both logistical and cost reasons going MTO from there doesn't seem realistic.

All that being said, my current Valextra actually felt a bit more substantial than the Hermes I handled in France. They are almost the same exact size, just with slightly different interior layouts, FWIW.
post #10 of 16
I own a six-card wallet and a small key case, both in Havana grain leather. I haven't owned either long enough to pass judgment on how it will hold up over time but my impression is that Hermes is a step up. I visited the Valextra boutique in Milan and looked at briefcases and ended up purchasing a Hermes sac a depeche. I didn't think that the Valextra briefcases were comparable and the price difference seems justified to me. I've found the Hermes men's boutique on Madison to be a pleasure to deal with and very accommodating but I know that experiences have been mixed.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

I own a six-card wallet and a small key case, both in Havana grain leather. I haven't owned either long enough to pass judgment on how it will hold up over time but my impression is that Hermes is a step up. I visited the Valextra boutique in Milan and looked at briefcases and ended up purchasing a Hermes sac a depeche. I didn't think that the Valextra briefcases were comparable and the price difference seems justified to me. I've found the Hermes men's boutique on Madison to be a pleasure to deal with and very accommodating but I know that experiences have been mixed.

Well, I haven't compared the briefcases because 1) can't spend the amount commanded for either and 2) I think the vintage Mark Cross I have that my grandfather bought in the 60s is cooler wink.gif. However I would expect that incremental differences in leather and construction quality would be magnified in a briefcase vs. a wallet because of the abuse it takes and how much more has to be held together. Pictures also suggest that Valextra briefcases are made from the stiffer, embossed leather, not the more grained stuff; not sure what you saw.

While I don't know all the finer points of determining leather quality, the Hermes card case felt a bit more delicate to me. Perhaps that was due to its lighter weight or perhaps due to the fact that it was smooth vs. grained leather. I also like that Valextra uses slightly thicker lacquer on the edges of the wallets as well as the edges of some interior pockets.

As for the Madison store, let's just say that those who have previously purchased expensive cases are probably viewed differently than those inquiring about a wallet. And as a (relatively) normal guy from the Midwest, I'm damn happy to discuss that at this time, or any other, preferably over scotch or beer.

Hadn't meant to necessarily discuss Valextra vs. Hermes in this thread, but such is SF life, and I'm still curious whether others have gone totally custom for wallets and if so what, perhaps, some of their regrets/things they'd do differently are.
post #12 of 16
Didn't mean to derail your thread. I think valextra is great, by the way. Would love to see what they do with custom wallet and what variations they can make.
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

Didn't mean to derail your thread. I think valextra is great, by the way. Would love to see what they do with custom wallet and what variations they can make.

And I didn't mean to imply that you had derailed it; my apologies if that's what I insinuated. Pretty sure I did all of the derailing with the story of the phone call! I also love brand-comparison threads, I find them quite interesting.

They seem pretty open to trying different things (each with its price, of course). So far they priced out two versions, one 10.5cm tall (like the one Hermes has) and the other 11.5cm tall (like what I currently have). My hesitation thus far has been doing it all via email and having no way to show someone the little details I'd want to consider (like how far apart pockets are spaced, pocket width and other stupidly anal things). For instance, aside from wanting six pockets vs. four my one and only issue with my current case is pocket width: the pockets are all horizontal and a little wide so when I open the case sometimes cards in the back pocket slide out a bit. First world problems, but still...

I'd rather hear the "I asked for a custom wallet and they made it 1cm too narrow for credit cards to fit in the pockets" stories now, no matter which company they are about.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimelesStyle View Post

I agree with almost everything you say, just one small caveat: Hermes is actually a publicly traded company, so they are beholden to their shareholders and have an obligation to maximize their returns.

When I said "private entity" I actually meant it in a government/public vs corporate capacity, such that Hermes is allowed to discriminate.

It's a game of statistics. For every person turned off by their (lack of) customer service, some will want it even more for being inaccessible. So long as the latter can still turn them a profit (and I'm sure they can), then who cares about the former? It's the same as advertising: those who claim ads don't affect them, are not the targets anyway.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayward View Post

When I said "private entity" I actually meant it in a government/public vs corporate capacity, such that Hermes is allowed to discriminate.

It's a game of statistics. For every person turned off by their (lack of) customer service, some will want it even more for being inaccessible. So long as the latter can still turn them a profit (and I'm sure they can), then who cares about the former? It's the same as advertising: those who claim ads don't affect them, are not the targets anyway.

Got it, makes sense. There are two versions of "the harder it is to get, the more I want it":

Version 1: The Hermes version. Place all kinds of unnecessary stumbling blocks in front of people to create an illusion of exclusivity which only fuels the desire to own and willingness to spend.

Version 2: The thrill of the hunt. You know what you want, either in specific or in abstract, but don't have it yet because the path to getting it (not talking money here) isn't clear and you have to figure out how to make it happen.

Version 1 is a huge turnoff to me; it's part of the reason I won't wait in lines at night clubs. My ego is big enough that I'm not going to be demeaned or have my time wasted for the sake of fueling someone else's ego. However I have a lot of fun with Version 2. My last wallet was a stock Valextra. I knew it existed because I'd seen it on Valextra's website. However it wasn't available in the US and Valextra's web store doesn't offer US shipping. So I had to figure out how to get in touch with someone in Milan, communicate what I wanted and eventually buy it. This was after several months of trying to figure out exactly what I even wanted. That is satisfying, in my opinion (or at least as satisfying as shopping can be).
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