Along with its sister bag, the Birkin, the Hermès Kelly is one of the most in demand, iconic, and special bags of all time. With its stunning appearance, the Kelly is discreet and understated, exuding a tasteful "if you know, you know" aesthetic. The Kelly is not only extremely desired and highly regarded, but it is a status symbol. Due to its representation of such luxury and eliteness, the Kelly is not easy to get your hands on - but when you can, it's definitely worth it. A true investment piece that will never lose its value, you not only purchase a beautiful bag, but one that comes with a story rich in history.
The prototype was originally introduced in 1892 as a saddle holder and formerly known as Haut à courroies, due to its high handle. In 1923, Émile-Maurice Hermès (son of Charles-Émile Hermès) and Ettore Bugatti (founder of Bugatti Automobiles) designed the bag for Hermès's wife Julie. It was a simple and conventional bag that not only allowed riders to carry their saddles, but also fit them into car doors. In the 1930s, Robert Dumas, son-in-law to Monsieur Hermès, re-designed the Haut à courroies into a spacious travel bag which he called the Sac à dépêches. It differentiated from the original design, and greatly contrasted other handbag silhouettes at the time which mostly resembled envelopes. The Sac à dépêches was stiff and boxy, an innovation in the world of 1930s handbags.
It wasn't until 1954 on the set of acclaimed film To Catch A Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, that the story of the Kelly bag really begins. Edith Head, the film's costumer designer, was allowed to purchase several Hermès accessories for the star, Grace Kelly. According to Head, it was love at first sight when Kelly held the bag. In 1956, the actress married Prince Rainier the third and became the Princess of Monaco. Within months, the Princess fell pregnant. She was photographed shielding her growing belly from the paparazzi with her Hermès bag, this photo made it onto Life Magazine. Thus, the Kelly made its claim to fame. There is a large misconception that the Kelly bag was designed for the famous actress and Princess, but it was actually only renamed the Kelly in 1977.
In 2010, along with other notable wardrobe pieces from Princess Grace's collection, her Kelly bag was loaned from the palace archives of Monaco and placed on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Hermès is recognized for its unbelievably meticulous craftsmanship. The Kelly bag is no exception, as one bag takes roughly 18-24 hours to create. Each bag is hand stitched and crafted from the finest of leathers including calf, goat, oxen, and ostrich. No stranger to exotics, the brand sources their rare leathers from specific locations all over the world. Crocodile leather from Australia, alligator from Florida, lizard from Malaysia, buffalo from Pakistan, and shark from Thailand - each leather is carefully dyed by professionals, allowing each bag to range in countless different colours. At present, Maison Hermès creates 32 styles of handbags, but the Kelly remains the manufacturer's best seller - and with good reason.
Shop the Kelly along with other Hermès bags here
By: Isabel de Carteret