Atelier Icon Series - #9 The Hermes Kelly

Oh Kelly…how we adore you.  While many associate the Birkin as the head of the Hermes monarchy, the Kelly has actually been around for many a decade more and truly is the epitome of elegance. 

If we need an introduction to this iconic bag, we need only turn to the Hermes website….

In the 1930s, Robert Dumas, son-in-law of Émile Hermès, whom he succeeded at the head of Hermès (1951-1978), created the women’s bag with straps.
He designed a trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets, a cutout flap, a handle and two side straps, and with it he brought the house into the era of boldness and modernism.
In the late 1950s, legend has it that Grace Kelly, a Hollywood star turned Princess of Monaco, was photographed holding the bag over her stomach to conceal the early signs of her pregnancy.
The bag shot to international fame and was renamed the Kelly.

The Hermes Kelly is a thing of beauty, so let’s take a look at some history…

Hermes started life as a Paris harness workshop, established by Thierry Hermès in 1837. Its specialism shifted in the succeeding years and its very first handbag was unveiled in 1922. The Kelly’s predecessor, The Sac à Dépêches, was introduced by Hermès’s head of firm Émile-Maurice in 1935, who wanted to create a bag that met his wife’s needs. As we know, it was renamed the Kelly in 1977 after Grace Kelly and has since become a fashion classic. The Constance arrived in 1969, and the Birkin several years later in 1986.

As with all Hermes bags, the Kelly is created in a variety of sizes, leathers and colours….all of which give each individual bag a distinctive personality.  Here are the different size options available


There are also different construction techniques that add to this – Sellier, Retourne and Sellier Mou.  How do we distinguish between them?  The Sellier is the older design of the two and has a distinctly more structured and geometrical appearance.  It is defined with a pointed out edge that reveals a top stitch and resin edge.  The Sellier is typically produced in more rigid materials such as Epsom leather.

The Retourne literally means ‘returned’, where the edges are ‘turned in’ complete with a piping trim.  This gives a beautiful finish with almost a contrast edge.  The Kelly Retourne is more commonly constructed in my supple materials such as Togo leather.

It’s hard to believe, but up until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the Kelly bag was readily available and accessible at most Hermès boutiques. One could simply walk in, see one sitting on the display shelves, and take it home – can you actually imagine this!  In the early 2000s, as scarcity was implemented, bags began to disappear and they only became available via established relationships with sales associates.  As such, the Kelly bag is now as sought after as the Birkin, particularly in certain ‘holy grail’ constructions.  The resale market for them is extremely strong, making the Kelly collectable and an incredible investment piece.

At Atelier, we always endeavour to keep our commissions low and offer the best prices possible for Kellys on the resale market.  Our beautiful K32 in Craie Togo with Palladium Hardware is currently on sale at £13,450 yet we have seen similar bags trading in excess of £15,000. 

So…do you love the Hermes Kelly as much as we do?  Let us know…

Love, Atelier x