956: during a public outing, barely even in her car, Grace Kelly was trying to protect her budding pregnancy from the avid lenses of the paparazzi – and it was thanks to a Hermès bag that she was able to do it. Soon, the photo would make it around the world; this was but an anecdote to the myth behind one of the most coveted fashion icons in the world. 20 years later, the “small strapped bag” would take the actress’ name and seal their shared destiny forever. Today you can find a nod to this event in the description of this piece by Hermès: “Are you expecting something and don’t want to divulge the news? This bag is made to hide your little bump with regal elegance.”
This timeless line and Kelly’s pure style traversed generations without losing anything of their obvious appeal. Throughout the years, the bag has diversified itself and is today available in five different sizes – from the Mini Kelly to the “40 centimeter”. There are multiple ways to wear it: floating it nonchalantly at the end of its strap, or carried by hand, it allows you to protect its handle from the heat of the palms thanks to its iconic twilly bands of silk. In its latest release, the Kelly clutch allows you to free up movements to better accompany you to a cocktail party. With its baguette shape and two straps that recall the original design, the Kelly Cut further cements the style as an ideal companion, a life partner of sorts. Even better, the materials and colors available are infinite. This iconic bag has teased the creative minds at Hermès’ workshops and elicited extravagant demand with clientele. Adorned with feathers, exotic skins, precious stones, or Hermès Barénia leather, the only limit is one’s own imagination with the exceptional savoir-faire of Hermès’ workshops able to fulfill any order.
Since the selection of materials in the leathers workshop is demanding, it takes close to two years to be able to obtain a Hermès Kelly. Its assembly takes 15 hours – 15 hours during which each piece is saddle stitched on the interior, the brand’s emblematic touch, then turned back inside out to make the stitches visible. From the bag’s cut to its finishings, the piece is entrusted to one lone artisan who puts his or her initials on the H zipper side of the interior pocket, signature of the artist on a masterpiece. The Kelly is and will remain a Hermès legend, long-lasting, with stars of today able to develop new aesthetics around this one key piece. The Olsen twins, Pharrell Williams, and Victoria Beckham are all proof of its multi-faceted and iconic character.
The Kelly bag by Hermès: Key dates
1892 : The prototype of the Kelly bag is a large bag used for holding a saddle and is known as Haut à courroies because of its high handle.
1923 : Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti designed a simple and plain bag for Hermès’s wife Julie. It was meant to fit into a car door and to allow riders to carry their saddle.
1928 : Hermès’s son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned it as a spacious travel bag called Sac à dépêches. The handbag gradually went on to become stiff and boxy.
1954 : Alfred Hitchcock allows the costume designer Edith Head to purchase Hermès accessories for the movie “To Catch a Thief”, starring Grace Kelly.
1956 : Grace Kelly falls in love with the bag. Within months of her 1956 marriage the pregnant princess of Monaco is photographed using the handbag to shield her growing belly from the paparazzi on Life magazine. The “Kelly” becomes worldwide famous.
1977 : The bag is officially renamed Kelly Bag.
1977 : The bag officially comes in Togo leather.
1980 – 1990 : Hermès introduces a double version of the Kelly: a softer and a more rigid one, the Retourne and the Sellier, which will be the standard model of the bag for the next decades.
1980 – Today : Twice a year Hermès allows few customers worldwide to customize materials and colours of their Kelly thanks to the Special Order. These one of a kind Kelly bags are signed with a horseshoe.
1981 : Hermès launches the limited edition Kelly Cavalcadour.
1999 : Hermès launches the Kelly in ostrich leather.
2000 : Hermès launches the ironic Quelle Idole version of the Kelly bag.
2002 : Hermès proposes the colourful Kelly bag Vibrato.
2005 : Hermès plays with irony through the Teddy bear limited edition.
2005 : For the first time the Kelly is multicolour with the Multi-colour limited edition.
2008 : The Kelly bag is enriched by a shoulder strap and a foulard on the handle.
2009 : It’s time for the limited edition of Kelly bag in Doblis leather.
2010s : While the Kelly bag once was the Princess’ bag, now the stars fully identify with it. It’s the time of the Birkin bag fans vs. the Kelly bag fans.
2010 : Hermès launches a pochette version of the Kelly bag.
2010 : The Kelly bag is protagonist at the Victoria and Albert Museum during a great exhibition dedicated to the Princess Grace of Monaco.
2011 : It’s the turn of the Mykonos limited edition.
2011 : It’s the time of the Kelly Picnic limited edition.
2013 : Colours are protagonists for the Harlequin limited edition.
2014 : Hermès launches the Kelly Printed, displaying a 1954 Photographic Portrait of Grace Kelly.
2015 : Hermès proposes the Grizzly limited edition.
2018 : In the new collection Hermès fully expands the concept of multicolour Kelly bag.