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Everything you need to know about the Hermès Kelly Bag

Everything You Need to Know About the Hermès Kelly Bag

In honor of Grace Kelly’s birthday, we’re taking a look at the history of the iconic handbag named after her: the Hermès Kelly bag.

The History

The original Grace Kelly BagThe original Hermès Kelly handbag, in exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo: REX FEATURES


The very first prototype for the Kelly bag was introduced circa 1892, as a bag to hold saddles; Hermès does have a equine background, after all, which was called “Haut à courroies.” In 1923, Emille Maurice Hermès redesigned the “Haut à courroies” bag for his wife; it was smaller, but still big enough to hold saddle. It wasn’t until the 1930s when Hermès’ son-in-law, Robert Dumas, remade the “Haut à courroies” into the “Sac à dépêche,” a simple yet  stylish bag, with a trapezoid shape, closed with two straps, and four studs on the bottom, allowing the bag to remain upright when placed on a flat surface.

Hermès Kelly bags available on PORTERO.comBlack Togo Kelly 28cm with Gold Hardware $19,750. Blue Paradis Swift Kelly Pochette with Palladium Hardware $24,500. Vintage Orange H Kelly 32cm with Gold Hardware $7,300. Craie Swift Kelly Cut with Gold Hardware $14,995.


The Princess

Grace Kelly Bag

Grace Patricia Kelly (1929-1982) was an American Hollywood actress, best known for her roles in films like High Noon, To Catch a Thief, and High Society. In 1956, she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco, a sovereign state in the French Riviera that, although independent from France, speaks the same language and maintains a similar joie de vivre. The story of the American actress turned princess captivated thousands across the world, and nobody could deny her beauty, elegance, and style.

In the 1995 Alfred Hitchcock film, “To Catch a Thief,” Grace Kelly, who played a millionaire’s spoiled daughter, carried Hermès’ “Sac à dépêches,” and instantly loved it. After marrying Prince Rainier, Grace used her Hermès bag to hide her growing pregnant belly from the paparazzi. Soon, the public started associating this handbag with Grace Kelly and began calling it the “Kelly Bag.”  However, it wasn’t until 1977 that Hermès officially rebaptize the Sac à dépêches as the Kelly bag.

Hermès Kelly bags available on PORTERO.comLimited Edition Kelly Flag 32cm White and Blue Thalassa $19,999. Green Bamboo Kelly 28cm with Palladium Hardware $13,999. Rose Confetti Epsom Kelly Pochette $17,600. Pre-owned Berenia and Rouge Toile Couvertures Horse Print Kelly 32cm $24,999.


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Why are Birkin Bags More Expensive in the Secondary Market?

Hermès Birkin bags

Out of all the coveted luxury items in the world, the Hermès Birkin is the most desired handbag. Sometimes referred to as “The Holy Grail” of handbags, the Birkin is a symbol of status, taste, and affluence. First created in 1984, and named after British actress and singer Jane Birkin, the demand for this handbag, more than 20 years later, is sky-high. The Birkin was not an immediate hit, but it became very popular in the 90s, when there was a boom of “It” handbags. In the 2001 episode of Sex and the City, Samantha tries to purchase a Birkin, only to be told there was a five-year wait list.

“It’s not a bag, it’s a Birkin,” said the sales associate.

Read: The 10 Most Popular Hermès Birkin Colors

A huge part of the appeal of the Birkin is that not everyone can get their hands on one. “There is no guarantee that you can ever walk into an Hermès boutique and walk out with a Birkin,” says Elizabeth Bernstein, Senior  Senior Director of Handbags and accessories of “Now, if you are a very good customer, spend loads on other Hermès items, and develop a good relationship with a Sales Associate, you might get added to the wait list.  If you do get on the list it can take up to two years to have your bag made.” Although demand is high, quantities are low.

So what is a woman, dying to get her hands on a Birkin, to do? She can purchase an authentic Hermès Birkin in the secondary market, from trusted sellers, like PORTERO. At an Hermès boutique, Birkin bags start at $10,000 and go up to six figures for more exotic skins and materials. In the secondary market, however, there is a premium for Birkin bags.

Birkin Bags available on PORTERO.comRouge Casaque Epsom Birkin 30cm with Palladium Hardware $21,500. Tangerine Ostrich Birkin 30cm with Palladium Hardware $40,000. Pre-Owned Kiwi Epson Birkin 35cm with Palladium Hardware $16,995. Emerald Green Shiny Nilo Crocodile Birkin 30cm with Gold Hardware $109,000.


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Kelly Sellier vs Kelly Retourne

The Kelly Debate; Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne

Hermès is known for offering its customers not only the best quality materials and highest levels of craftmanship, but the maison also prides itself in providing its clients with countless options- so many that it can sometimes be overwhelming. But that’s what we’re here for, to make navigating the luxury market an easy task.

There are many things to consider when buying an Hermès Kelly bag, but a topic that’s not highly discussed is the debate between Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne. At first, the two Kelly bags might seem to only differ in color, but if you look closer, you’ll see they have different shapes. Let’s take a closer look at each Kelly.

Orange H Kelly Sellier


Here we have a pristine Orange H Kelly 32cm in Epsom leather, priced at $19,000, available on (no waitlist, ever). The Kelly Sellier, or “rigid” Kelly has a boxy, structured look. The Kelly Sellier’s side stitches show on the outside, and because of the rigorous crafting process, the Sellier is usually priced higher than the Retourne. 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.

Don’t forget to visit our Hermès leather guide.
Blue Atoll Kelly 32

Here, we have a pristine Blue Atoll Kelly 32cm in Togo leather, also available for purchase on As you can see, the Retourne version, also refered to as “souple,” has softer, more rounded corners. Its slouchy feel make it a favorite among Hermès lovers who enjoy wearing Kellys on an every day basis, to compliment a more casual wardrobe. All Kellys are made to be Selliers, but right before the process is done, the Hermès artisan working on the bag will turn the bag inside out. This is why the side stitches on the Kelly Retourne are on the inside.

No matter your choice of Kelly, you can be sure to find one to fit your lifestyle on Check out our Hermès Kelly selection!


Top 10 Most Popular Hermès Leathers and Skins

A guide to the Top 10 Most Popular Hermès Leathers and Skins (in alphabetical order)

By Elizabeth Bernstein,‘s Senior Director of Handbags and Accessories

1. Alligator

Hermès AlligatorHermès Bleu de Malte Matte Alligator Birkin Bag (SOLD). Hermès Bordeaux Shiny Alligator Kelly Pochette (SOLD) $33,000


Not to be confused with Crocodile, Hermès’ alligator skin is available in both Matte and Lisse (shiny). Physically, the main difference between alligator and crocodile is that alligator has a type of webbing pattern in the scales, and the scales are less uniform (see crocodile below).

Hermès Alligator Bags available on PORTERO.comBlue Saint Cyr Matte Alligator Birkin 25cm with Gold Hardware $88,000. Orange Poppy Shiny Alligator Mini Constance 18cm with Gold Hardware $37,400. Ficelle Shiny Alligator Kelly Pochette with Palladium Hardware $32,750. Bordeaux Shiny Alligator Mini Constance 18 with Rouge H Lizard H $35,200.


2. Box Calf Leather

Hermès Box Calf LeatherPre-owned Hermès Brique Box Calf Kelly $7,500


Also known as veau leather, Box Calf is Hermès’ oldest leather. Box Calf is very smooth with a glossy finish. It’s a very structured hard leather that holds shape well. It can blister if it gets wet, so be cautious around water, and be sure to use a raincoat. Be careful not to make large scratches to the leather as it is smooth and will detract from its beauty. If the leather does get scratched, the item can be taken to the Hermès boutique for servicing, which will reduce the appearance of scratches and blemishes.

Hermès Box Calf Leather bags available on PORTERO.comPre-owned Raisin Box Kelly 32cm with Gold Hardware $10,500. Vintage Black Box Calf Kelly 32cm with Gold Hardware $4,850. Vintage Dark Brown Mini Kelly 20cm with Gold Hardware $3,850. Vintage Navy Blue Box Hermès Constance 23cm with Gold Hardware $9,000.


3. Clemence

Hermès Clemence Leather Hermès Blue Paradise Clemence Birkin  (SOLD) $21,500. Hermès Plomb Clemence Kelly (SOLD) $18,500


Clemence is a soft, buttery calfskin with a nice even grain. It will not show scratches as a smooth leather would because of the grain, which is smoother and softer than other grainy leathers, with a nice light weight. Over time, if a Clemence leather bag is overloaded with heavy items, it can become slouchy, so be sure not to overload your bags.

Hermès Clemence Leather handbags available on PORTERO.comCapucine Clemence Etribelt bag $4,600. Pre-owned Brown Ebene Clemence Picotin PM $1,080. Orange Poppy Clemence Birkin 30cm with Gold Hardware $21,500. Pre-owned Etain Clemence Evelyne 3 PM $3,980


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Hermes Birkin - 650x650

A Bright Start to the New Year

Out with the old and in with Pantone’s color of the year: Radiant Orchid! We’ve been inspired by the endless hues of this year’s enticing and confident color.  From Hermès to Nancy Gonzalez, you can spot 2014’s color in an array of gorgeous totes, shoulder bags, clutches, and jewelry at

Shop our inspired collection here:

new birkin box insta

Just in: Classic Black Hermès Birkin

Right out of the box — one of the pristine black Birkins that you can find on Portero.

Shop Birkins here.

hermes kelly win

Win a Hermès Kelly bag!

Win your dream bag! We’ve partnered with PopSugar and ShopStyle to giveaway this pre-owned red Hermès Kelly. The bag has been around since 1935. Originally known as the Sac à Dépêches, it was renamed the Kelly in 1956 after Princess Grace Kelly carried it to discreetly cover her pregnancy.

Enter the sweepstakes here.

Shop Hermès here.

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Labor Day: Travel with a Birkin HAC

The Hermès Birkin HAC is short for Haut à Courroies, which means high belts in French. These Birkins are slightly taller with shorter straps. Designed in late 1800s, they were designated for transporting riding gear. Today, the larger bags are ideal for travel. Bon weekend!

Shop all Birkins here

elizabeth blog 2

Finish summer with a white hot statement

A vision in white: A Hermès Bolide in leather and toile.


Hermes bracelet and vintage Cartier watch

Vintage Cartier meets its match

Toughen up a vintage watch — such as this Cartier Tank — with a Hermès leather bracelet. (This one is a Double Tour Rivale.)

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