THE HERMES KELLY BAG | COMPLETE GUIDE: History, style, sizes and prices

Video here and written blog below:

 

 

THE HISTORY

In 1837 Thierry Hermes opened up a harness workshop in Paris and Hermes became renowned for being one of the best saddlers. Over the years they expanded into producing leather bags from which to feed horses and then luckily for us on to bags for humans!

Hermes HAC 50 bag Katie Holmes

(HAC bag - Katie Holmes)

 

Inspiration for both the Hermes Kelly (shop Hermes) and Birkin bags (shop Birkins) can be traced back to 1982. They are both the development of a large bag named the Haut à courroies – known as such because of its high handle. The “HAC” bag was originally produced for cavalry solders to store their boots and saddles in. Still around but rarely seen the Hermes HAC bags have been referred to by one blogger as the “Unicorn of Hermes bags” as they are so rarely seen. This could be due to the fact that they are a pretty impressive size and weight – especially once full, arguably not the most practical of weekend bags. ANYWAY thou shall not insult Hermes…

 

In 1922, Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti designed a simple bag for Hermès's wife Julie who had complained that she could not find a bag to her liking. A few years later in the 1930s, Hermès's son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned this as a spacious travel bag and named it the Sac à dépêches. It was a sharp contrast to the purses of the time, which were small and flat envelope style pieces.

 

Grace Kelly holding Hermes Kelly bag

 

In 1954, the costume designer for the film “How to Catch a thief” starring Grace Kelly purchased Hermès accessories. The American actress who went on to become the Princess of Monaco loved the design of the bag and commissioned six to be made in different colours. Two years later in 1956 whilst pregnant with her daughter the bag she brought along shielded her from paparazzi. After featuring in various magazine shoots and paparazzi shots the bag soon started to be referred to as the “The Kelly bag” however it was not officially renamed until 1977.

 

The keen Hermes fans among you will know that they have now named another model the Sac à dépêches and this is more of a briefcase style bag.

 Hermes Sac a Depeche black bag Kelly

 

THE DESIGN & ANATOMY

The Kelly bag is a trapezium closed with two straps. Four studs on the bottom, itself made of three layers of leather, enable it to stand on the ground. The padlock, keys and hardware are generally gold plated or palladium but custom finishes are also available. The construction of each Kelly bag requires 18 to 25 hours of handicraft, with each item being created by a single artisan.

Kelly bags have the same draw-strap and lock mechanism as a Birkin bag (video blog: look inside the Hermes Birkin), but have a single leather top handle. They also have an optional non-adjustable shoulder strap that was introduced as standard in the 1980's prior to that, they were special. In 2000, the double loop metal strap holder was added. 

 

Hermes Kelly Anatomy

 

  • LOCK – for securing the bag

  • TOURET – where the lock hooks in the centre

  • CLOUCHETTE – the leather cover over the keys

  • TIRET – thin piece of leather that holds the keys & clouchette

  • SANGLES – thin leather straps that fasten the bag over the top of the straight flap

  • PLAQUE – hardware at the end of the Sangles that goes over the Touret

  • FLOUR CLOU – four feet at the base of the bag

 

THE OPTIONS

 The Hermes Kelly is available in eight sizes – the number relates to the length of the base on the bag in CM: Kelly 15 (K15) • Kelly 20 (K20) • Kelly 25 (K25) • Kelly 28 (K28) • Kelly 32 (K32) • Kelly 35 (K35) • Kelly 40 (K40) • Kelly 50 (K50). The K40 and K50 are more rarely selected sizes, but work well for travel. Prefer the Birkin? Watch our favourite unboxing here.

It is also available in two styles:

Retourne and Sellier.

 

Hermes Kelly Retourne vs Hermes Kelly Sellier

 

The Kelly Sellier, or “rigid” Kelly has a boxy, structured look. Its side stitches show on the outside. The sharper edges give the Kelly Sellier an air of chic formality. Because of its shape and the strong leathers used, like Epsom and Box, Kelly Sellier bags hold their shape exceptionally well as time goes by.

 

As you can see, the Retourne version, also referred to as “souple,” has softer, more rounded corners. Its slouchy feel make it a favourite among Hermès lovers who enjoy wearing Kelly bags on an every day basis, to compliment a more casual wardrobe. During the manufacturing process the bag is turned inside out. The result is a softer look with rounded edges and visible piping. The stitching on a Retourne is on the inside.

 

PRICES

In the mid-1990s, a Kelly bag was priced at US$3,500 and as of March 2017, prices range from US $7,400 to US$12,000 - naturally more for rare skins. The Sellier is generally more expensive model than the Retourne.

 

Hermes bags are very much considered to be investment pieces as their rarity (Hermes limited the supply) and the consistent price rises mean that they not only hold their value but increase over time. Interested in bag investment watch this video here about how to make money selling handbags..

 

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