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A Hermès Kelly bag is more than just an accessory – it’s an investment – that is if you feel so inclined to sell it. Owning one of these iconic handbags is the epitome of style and luxury.
Hermès Kelly bags are so hard to get that once you do acquire one, you most likely won’t want to part with it.
Despite dating back to the early 20th century, Hermès Kelly bags are still ‘in’, and likely always will be. But what makes this nearly century old Kelly design so special?
The bag carries more than just the weight of the Hermès name. The hard-ware and other rich materials partially explain why this lavish accessory sells for thousands of pounds. Let’s see what else makes it so expensive!
Besides the Birkin, the Kelly bag is Hermès’ most well-known female accessory. For well over a century, the Hermès brand has maintained a reputation for high-quality, sought-after accessories. As one of France’s most prominent fashion houses, it is also known for being one of the most coveted fashion brands.
The brand’s dedication to creating premium goods is partially why its products carry such a high price tag. Nothing in the Hermès range is mass-produced. Keeping up the French fashion tradition, all their products are handmade using luxurious materials – which brings us to why the Kelly bag is so special.
The bagmakers employed to make Kelly bags are highly trained craftsmen. Only those with years worth of experience are trusted to maintain the company’s high standard of quality and precision. The outer bag is made using luxurious leathers and skins, while the inner compartments are made using goat skin. This takes an expert to assemble, and is therefore considered an art form. It takes an artisan about 18 hours to assemble one Kelly bag completely by hand.
Once finished, each Kelly bag is meticulously examined by Hermès’ quality assurance team. Generally, it takes several days for this accessory to be ready for sale.
Understandably, the manufacturing and examination process takes time. Much longer than a fashion company that relies on machinery and automation to construct their products.
While you no longer have to join a waiting list for a Kelly bag, you need to have patience when looking for one. These bags are sent to boutique stores sporadically, with little indication of what specific colour or style will be sent. So, it’s worth checking in regularly with purveyors of luxury accessories to see if they have any Kelly bags in stock.
Another reason Kelly bags are so sought after is the romantic vision of France that they carry. Hermès is integral to the fashion capital of the world, and owning one of their products conveys class and timeless style.
This particular bag is linked to Grace Kelly – an Academy Award-winning American film actress and former Princess of Monaco who became an icon of 20th-century French history.
The bag was originally called Sac à dépêches but was later renamed after it was famously – or, infamously – photographed in the hands of the U.S. actress.
It’s a famous photo as it captures the megastar at her most in vogue. It’s also notable as it shows Grace Kelly using the bag to shield the early signs of her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
Most Hermès fans are familiar with the Grace Kelly pregnancy story, but what about the rest of the bag’s history?
Hermès didn’t start as a bag manufacturer. The company originally started in 1837 when Thierry Hermès started producing leather goods – mainly horse saddles. A few generations later, Charles-Émile Hermès refocused the family’s business to make woman’s holdall bags.
The Sac à dépêches was first released to the world in 1930. Two decades later, Alfred Hitchcock used Sac à dépêches handbags as film props in “To Catch a Thief”. The star of the film, Grace Kelly, fell in love with the bags on set, and the rest is history!
Over the last century, Kelly bags have become a fashion staple in Monaco and many other celebrity havens around the world. The high demand for these handbags has had a lot to do with the celebrities who have been seen wearing them.
The handbags have also had starring roles in many iconic films, which has added to the bag’s fame. This includes Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Bout de Souffle (Breathless)” and Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation”.
The main debate between fans of Hermès bags is the Kelly vs. the Birkin. While the Birkin may be the most popular, the Kelly could be argued as being the most iconic.
Within these two camps, there are also inner debates over what the best style of the Kelly and Birkin bag is.
There are two distinct types of Hermès Kelly: the Sellier and the Retourné. The untrained eye may not pick up the subtle differences between these two styles. Long-term devotees of Hermès, on the other hand, will be able to tell a Retourné from a Sellier a mile away.
Here’s how you tell the difference:
The Sellier can be defined as having a more structured look. The edges on either side are far straighter than that of the Retourné. The corners are also sharper. The rigid structure is the most obvious defining feature, but you can also identify a Sellier by its outward-facing stitching. Overall, the solid shape of the Sellier creates a more formal look.
The word ‘Sellier’ means saddler in French, which is a nod to Thierry Hermès’ formative work a horse saddlemaker.
Hermès use tougher leathers to create the rigidness of the Sellier. Epsom and Box leathers are typically employed for Selliers. Although this creates a more defined look, the lack of flexibility found in the Sellier has its limitations. For one, it has less space than the Retourné.
If you’re looking for an expensive handbag to take to formal events or keep a Hermès piece as an investment, the Sellier would be the best option for you.
The Retourné has a less-defined shape than the Sellier. Its edges are more rounded and its corners less sharp, which makes it almost closer to a Hermès Birkin. However, the Retourné is much closer to the Sellier on closer inspection. It’s actually just a Sellier bag turned inside out. It’s in the name: ‘Retourné’ literally translates to ‘reversed’.
Besides the fuller look of this bag, you can also identify a Retourné by its inward-pointing stitching and the leather piping on the side.
The looser shape of the bag is created using less restrictive leathers, including Togo and Clemence. The more rounded look created makes the Retourné appear more casual. Plus, its flexible structure ensures you can fit more in it than you can in the Sellier. However, wearers need to be cautious not to overfill the bag, as this can cause it to stretch out of shape.
So, if you’re looking for a practical, fashionable, and more laid-back handbag, we’d recommend going with the Retourné.
The materials found in a Hermès Kelly depend on the type (i.e., Retourné or Sellier) as well as when it was made.
Vintage Kelly bags tend to be made out of Calfbox leather. Although easily scratched, Calfbox scratches develop into a smooth finish over time. Particularly older Kelly bags featuring Calfbox will feature a mirror-like surface. Another common leather found in this bag is the cowhide-derived Clemence.
Other than leather, several exotic materials have been used throughout the decades to create unique editions of this bag. These exotic materials include crocodile from Australia, lizard from Malaysia, alligator from Florida, Buffalo from Pakistan, as well as ostrich, deer, calf goat, and oxen skins from all over the world.
In terms of hardware, Kelly bags most commonly feature gold, rose gold or palladium. However, it’s possible to find limited edition bags with brushed gold, brushed palladium, and even diamond hardware.
Hermès creates all its Kelly hardware from solid brass for weight and durability. Each metal piece is plated in a complementary precious metal that best enhances the bag. Kelly bag hardware includes the front plate stamped with ‘Hermès-Paris’, and “Hermès” engraved on the lock, key, and even the zipper pull.
The attention to all the details makes a Kelly bag special whether that is the top stitching, the lock or the feet. Learn the Hermès terminology to become a true Hermès Kelly expert.
It should be noted that the strap wasn’t part of the original Kelly design; it was added in the mid-to-late 1980s.
The colour range of the Kelly is another reason why this particular Hermès product is so sought-after. Exotic colours include Texas Rose and Cactus. There’s also a range of more neutral colours available, from Nata to Black.
Overall, standard Black is the most popular Kelly colour. This neutral colour elevates the gold buckle and compliments most outfits. Other popular colours include Etoupe and Gold.
Occasionally, Hermès will release limited edition colours and designs. This has included various Hot Pink and Midnight Blue editions of the bag, as well as a clear vinyl version. One notable limited edition bag was the Picnic Kelly, which was made using leather and wicker.
Hermès Kelly bags come in several sizes which are based on the length of the bag’s base. If a description for a Kelly states that the product is a 28cm bag, it means the item has a 28 cm-long base.
The smallest Sac à dépêches made by Hermèsis 20cm long. This version of the bag is often referred to as the ‘mini Kelly’.
Above the mini, Hermès offer the following sizes:
In the past, you normally had to join a waiting list to own a Kelly bag. Some were required to wait as long as six years for this handbag. Queuing is no longer necessary, but that doesn’t make it any easier to buy a Sac à dépêches.
New Kelly bags can be found at authorized retailers and Hermès retailers, however stock numbers may be limited and inconsistent. While there are no longer waiting lists, you’ll have to wait a while for your new Kelly bag to be made. Waiting time varies.
Aside from purchasing directly from Hermès another option is to buy from the resale market as it is probably the most reliable way to get a Hermès bag sooner rather than later. However, you may end up paying more for a second-hand Kelly bag than you would for a brand-new one. The value of these bags is constantly rising in value. A 10-year-old Kelly bag in mint condition could sell for upwards of 240% of its original value.
If you’re looking for instant gratification or a version no longer available, the second-hand market for Hermès Kelly bags is the best way to go. However, there are some things you need to be aware of before buying a Hermès product in the resale market.
There are many retailers and ecommerce sites selling pre-owned or pre-loved Kelly bags. When looking for a bag we suggest start by looking at the seller’s reputability. You want to buy from a company who stands behind their products.
At Global Boutique all the bags we sell are guaranteed to be authentic. Our team of experts carefully inspect each bag before placing them in our shop and on our If the seller is new to you, it’s worth arranging to view the bag in person first before making a purchase, or an online meeting where you can further inspect the bag.
When judging a Kelly bag, you should check the attached lock and key set. The lock should read “HERMÈS” on the bottom. The number on the lock should also match the keys.
If you find an authentic Kelly bag on the resale market, there are lots of advantages. This includes finding a colour that may be discontinued or finding one made using a type of leather that Hermès no longer uses. However, you may end up paying a higher price for a pre-owned bag than you would for a new one.
Like everything in life there are pros and cons of both buying a new Hermès Kelly bag and investing in a preowned one, but you can trust the team at Global Boutique to help you find that dream Kelly bag you’ve been looking for.
Besides Grace Kelly, several celebrities have been known to carry Hermès Kelly bags.
Celebrities who are known to be ‘Team Kelly’ (as opposed to Team Birkin) include Beyoncé, Miranda Kerr, and Chiara Ferragni.
If you need to clean the exterior leather of the bag, then you should use a lint-free microfiber cloth. If your bag is made using crocodile skin or another exotic material, be extra delicate with the brushing. If there’s dirt build-up in a difficult-to-reach crack, use a soft brush to unlodge it.
No matter how stubborn the dirt is, never apply a commercial cleaning agent to the bag. If you can’t remove dirt yourself, your Kelly bag may need to visit a local handbag spa.
As far as handbags go, the Kelly is a timeless piece that will increase in price indefinitely in years to come. Hermès increase the price of their new bags by around 5% each year. As the price of new bags goes up, so does the price of older versions. If you can keep the bag in mint condition, you’re almost guaranteed to make a profit off a Kelly bag in future.
This is especially the case if you purchase one featuring Crocodile skin or another exotic material. Models that are no longer in production obviously see the best resale prices.
However, a Kelly bag is only a good investment as long as you keep it in great condition. A worn Kelly bag may be difficult to auction.
The Kelly bag is a piece of art that has fascinated both women and men around the world for over a century now. The dedication to quality of the Hermès fashion house ensures that the bag won’t only be fashionable for years to come, but also massively profitable.
Need some help securing the Kelly bag of your dreams? Global Boutique have a range of Kelly bags in stock currently. If none of our current stock is what you’re looking for, we can also help you source a Kelly bag.
Whether you’re looking for a bag featuring crocodile, lizard, or alligator skin – we can help you get your hands on this timeless piece!
It’s incredibly difficult to give an average purchase for a Kelly bag due to all the variables such as material (e.g. ostrich, crocodile, calfskin), sizes, year, colours, and how many were produced. Also, just because a bag is larger doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more expensive; sometimes the Kelly mini can command higher prices than Kelly’s of larger sizes.
Currently the Birkin is Hermès’ most popular bag and tends to have a bigger price tag than Kelly bags but that could easily change with the latest fashion trends. However, vintage Kelly bags have been known to sell for much more than vintage Birkin bags.
The pearl-coloured Himalaya Retourne Kelly 25 sold at a Sotheby’s auction fro $346,802. A different version of this bag with diamond studded hardware fetched $500K + from a Christie’s auction in 2022.
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