If I had to create a list of 5 all-time favourite bags of mine, Hermes Garden Party 36 would certainly be close to the top spot. The bag perfectly encapsulates the concept of a relaxed, unpretentious and timeless design which also happens to benefit from the exquisite craftsmanship offered by one of the world’s leading fashion houses. It almost sounds too good to be true! Indeed, there is no better entry-level option for fashionistas who wish to get a taste of Hermes luxury without breaking the bank.

I bought my Garden Party 36 over year ago and I have been enchanted with the style ever since. Admittedly, it took some time to convince myself to invest in the bag. At that time, I had already owned some of the more sought-after Hermes styles and was unconvinced whether Garden Party would be able to match the hypnotic charm of the Birkins or the Kellys. As it happened, I was wrong and stupidly snobbish in my thinking. Not only did Garden Party turn out to be one of the best fashion investments I have ever made. In fact, ever since I got it, I have been trying to convince everyone (or anyone who would listen) that this simple but fabulous bag is not given enough credit and should be the staple of any designer handbag collection.

As a total Hermes Garden Party convert, in this review I am going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the luxurious tote. I will focus both on the the general characteristics of the Garden Party design as well as specific aspects of the 36 bag. Hopefully, it should convince those still thinking of investing in one of these pieces, that Garden Party is the bag for you.

Hermes Garden Party 36

There are several attributes which make Hermes Garden Party bag such a popular choice.

Firstly, there is the versatility of the design. Garden Party bags are available in many different colours, finishes and sizes, so it easy to find a style which appeals to individual taste. One can choose between all-leather or canvas finish with calfskin or cowhide trimmings. While the canvas version is visually appealing and relaxed in appearance, the leather option is slightly more formal and hard-wearing. Whether you are looking for a functional office bag or a casual shopper design, there is always something to choose from in the Garden Party range.

The bag’s appeal is also rooted in the simplicity of the design, which is charmingly low key. There are no obvious logos, no visible signs indicating that the bag originates from Hermes. It is a minimalistic, understated style, perfect for those who prefer to stay away from ostentatious displays screaming “designer bag”.  However, this blank canvas can be personalised and accessorised with one (or many!) of Hermes’ colourful charms and twillies, which can be easily attached to the luxurious bag to make it look just a bit more special.

A notable feature of Hermes Garden Party bag is, likewise, its practicality. The soft structure of the tote offers generous interiors which can contain plentiful personal items. There is no top flap, only a clip closure, which means the capacity of the bag is not rigidly confined to its core dimensions and it can be overfilled, if needed. What is more, the Clou de Selle snap fastening system – connecting sides of the bag and thus creating the narrower opening and wider base – can be unclipped. This creates exceedingly generous, additional space which comes in extremely handy at times when you need to carry extra items, notably during travel or shopping.

There is also the very attractive price point. Anyone familiar with Hermes will know that their designs are notoriously expensive. It would be fair to say that, on average, to score most of their bags you would need the minimum of £4,000 (as of 2020 in the UK). By contrast, the starting price for a Garden Party tote is approximately £1,500 (that is Garden Party 30 in canvas). That is a very considerable disparity. While £1,500 is still a significant amount to pay for a handbag, when it comes to Hermes, it seems like a great bargain considering the exquisite finish and craftsmanship offered by the fashion house. [Back to Intro]

Garden Party bag in Gold

What are the sizes of Hermes Garden Party bags?

Garden Party bags are available in three different sizes. The dimensions of Hermes Garden Party 36, as shown in this post, are 36 cm in length, 26 cm in height and 17 cm in width (that’s circa 13.5″ x 10″ x 6.5″ in inches). Garden Party 36 is the medium version of the bag and, arguably, the most popular one too.

Those who like the appearance of the tote, but are not entirely enamoured with its size, can choose a smaller or a larger version. The smaller option, Garden Party 30, measures 30 cm x 22 cm x 12.5 cm (12″ x 8.5″ x 5″ in inches).  By comparison, Garden Party 49 (the so-called Voyage bag), which is the largest version of the tote, measures 49 cm x 36 cm x 25.3 cm (in inches, that’s 19.5″ x 14′ x 9.5″). [Back to Intro]

Hermes Garden Party bag

What can fit into Garden Party 36?

In short, everything you need and so much more! Hermes Garden Party 36 can easily contain an iPhone, large wallet, cosmetic pouch, tissues, hand cream, TangleTeezer brush, hand sanitiser, headphones and plenty of other small objects. If you unclip the sides, Garden Party 36 will also easily hold an A4 file, change of shoes and a book. Honestly, as far as space goes, the tote is absolutely fantastic.

The below image shows what I would usually carry inside of my 36 tote. As you can see, there is still plenty of room left for other personal items. For the purpose of this photo, I deliberately have not used any bag organisers. This provides a much better view of the ample inner space that is on offer in this design. Also, it made photographing the interiors a bit more tricky 😉  [Back to Intro]

GP 36 bag fit test

How to wear Hermes Garden Party 36?

Garden Party 36 is a large design and its size precludes it from being a contender for crossbody wear. Hence, no real surprise, that there are no shoulder strap attachments. 

The most natural way of carrying the bag is by top handles. Although sizable, the drop of Hermes Garden Party 36 is not too low. I am 5’5” and the bag reaches below the knee level to the mid-ankle, when held that way.

The loops of the handles are also generous enough to allow the bag to be carried on the shoulder. While this may not be the most comfortable way of holding such a large tote, an option to go hands-free is always appreciated.

As an alternative, Garden Party 36 can be carried on the forearm or in the crack of the elbow. Personally, I find this to be the most convenient way of holding the bag, which makes accessing essentials very easy. It is also, in my opinion, the most alluring way of presenting Garden Party 36. [Back to Intro]

Hermes bag in gold leather

How to authenticate Hermes Garden Party bag?

While I do not hold myself out to be an expert on authenticating Garden Party bags, I am happy to share some tips on what to look out for in the recent versions of the tote.

Firstly, there are no holograms or other sewn in serial numbers which could be used to establish if the bag is genuine. Instead, Hermes use a blind stamp system from which we can determine the age of the tote, and which also includes an ID of the artisan who worked on the bag. In Garden Party, the stamp is embossed on one of the inner leather strips running vertically along the side of the bag. In case of the leather version of the bag, which has an inner pocket, if we view the interiors with the pocket closer to us, the stamp is positioned on the left-hand side. It can be found under the words “Hermes Paris, Made in France” visibly imprinted near the top of one of the vertical straps.

GP 36 blind stamp

I have previously shared information on how to decipher the date stamp in Hermes Birkin bags in an earlier post so I will not be restating it in this review, but you can access it by clicking here. In a nutshell, the date when the bag was released is denoted by a single letter or a letter encased in a geometric shape, for earlier designs. For example, I purchased my Garden Party 36 in early 2019 and therefore the blind stamp reads “D” which corresponds with that specific year.

Other things to look out for in ascertaining whether the bag is authentic include the internal zipper (this is relevant only to the leather version of the bag as it has an inner pocket). In a genuine Garden Party, the metal slider of the zipper has the word “Hermes” engraved on each side of metal and is finished with a leather pull matching the colour of the bag. The bottom stop of the zipper is shaped distinctly like the letter “H”. In addition, each top side of the snap closure should be engraved with the words “Hermes Paris”. [Back to Intro]

Hermes Garden Party 36

How to clean Hermes Garden Party bag?

As mentioned earlier, Garden Party bag is available in two finishes, i.e. leather and canvas. In the leather tote, the interior walls are coated with a light beige chevron canvas lining. In the canvas bag, there is no additional protective layer of the interior walls, so the outer canvas effectively lines up the interiors of the bag. Whichever finish you opt for, there is always the risk that the at some point the inner or outer canvas may become stained or dirty.

Should an accident occur, I would strongly recommend staying away from commercial cleaning products because these can cause further damage to the beautiful tote. Instead, you can take the bag to one of Hermes’ boutiques where it can undergo professional cleaning. The Hermes Spa service, as it is commonly known, can fix most issues stemming from the usage of a bag such as stains or discolouration. It can also tackle other, more serious, matters like the damage to stitching or piping.

The slight downside of the bag restoration service is the timing. On average, it takes about 12 weeks for the turnaround, which may seem like a long time. On top of that, the service is not free of charge. However, the results are excellent, so where the staining or damage are quite substantial, it is definitely an option worth considering.

To prevent issues from occurring in the first place, my advice would be to invest in a bag liner as soon as you can. When it comes to this style, they are truly indispensable. A good liner/organiser will protect the delicate interiors of the Garden Party tote and help to maintain its structure. It will also provide additional storage space as the tote does not have any inner compartments. In fact, the zip up pocket only features in the leather version of the tote. Garden Party in part-canvas and part-leather has none.

Hermes organisers, such as the Fourbi Pouch, can be a good option for the bag but they are a bit pricey, starting at £390 for the smallest version. Alternatively, you can pick up a cheaper option from one of many companies selling liners for designer handbags online. Some of them make organisers specifically for the Garden Party style. They are definitely a must-have for this style of a bag! [Back to Intro]

Garden Party 36 vs Birkin 35 comparison

Is Garden Party 36 better than Birkin 35?

While Birkin enjoys the undisputed status as one of the fashion world’s most sought-after handbag designs, Garden Party shares some commonalities with the famous style. As such, it may be the perfect choice for those who are unable to get their hands on a Birkin but still dream of owning a piece of Hermes sparkle. Arguably, certain aspects of the Garden Party bag make it the better option of the two.

For anyone wondering whether Hermes Garden Party 36 can rival the one-and-only Birkin 35, I have put together a comparison of the key features of both totes, below:

Hermes Garden Party 36 vs Birkin 35

How much is Hermes Garden Party bag?

The price of Hermes Garden Party bag varies depending on its size and material from which it is made. At the time of writing this review (i.e. as of September 2020), different versions of the bag are available in the UK at the following prices:

GP tote prices 2020

What is the best place to buy Hermes Garden Party?

While some seasonal versions of the Garden Party tote can be found in Hermes boutiques, the more sought-after colours and finishes are much harder to come by. Anyone looking for shades such as Etoupe, Gold or Black, especially in Nagonda calfskin or Country cowhide leather, will be rather lucky to come across them in a store. These versions of Garden Party are immensely popular and sell out very quickly.

From my own experience, there is much better chance of finding the Garden Party tote you like in the Hermes boutique online. If you have set your heart on a specific colour, especially one in high demand, I would recommend regularly visiting the brand’s online store. However, bear in mind that Hermes update their stock on an ad hoc basis, so it is difficult to predict when a sold-out item may become available again. If you are committed to buying the bag, it is best to check the website daily.

The one thing to remember about ordering from Hermes online is to be quick. Any new inventory posted on the site is usually very limited. We are literally talking about only a few pieces. Therefore, if you are lucky enough to come across the bag you like, don’t wait and get it immediately because they sell out incredibly fast. Take my word for it. After weeks of refreshing Hermes website a few times a day, I was ecstatic to finally find the unicorn, Garden Party 36 in Etoupe. However, when I tried to add it to my basket, someone else had already snapped it up. Luckily, at the time they also had the Gold colour, so I settled for that, but I was flabbergasted how quickly Etoupe run out of stock. [Back to Intro]

Hermes tote in Gold colour

Is Hermes Garden Party 36 worth it?

Absolutely, 100 per cent yes! As far as designer bags go, Hermes Garden Party 36 is one of the best bag purchases I have ever made. The quality of finish is superb so it is quite clear that the tote will keep its shape for many years to come. On top of that, the bag is exceptionally practical so you will end up getting your money’s worth through continuous use. It is true that the delicate interiors require a little bit of care, but any potential issues can be easily prevented with a good bag liner/organiser.

Overall, the tote is a fantastic investment so if you are looking for a beautifully crafted, large and durable everyday bag which offers a piece of Hermes magic at a reasonable price, Garden Party 36 is the bag for you. [Back to Intro]

Photos by Unwrapped.Fashion

© Copyright Unwrapped.Fashion (2020) All Rights Reserved