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 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.
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.
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.
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 PORTERO.com. “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.
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.
Here we have a pristine Orange H Kelly 32cm in Epsom leather, priced at $19,000, available on PORTERO.com (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.
Here, we have a pristine Blue Atoll Kelly 32cm in Togo leather, also available for purchase on PORTERO.com. 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 PORTERO.com. Check out our Hermès Kelly selection!
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).
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.
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.
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 Portero.com.
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.
The HermèsBirkinHAC 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!