History of the bag: Hermès Kelly

The photo that started the fame of the Hermès Kelly

The exclusive Hermès Kelly bag: So iconic 

Another amazing and iconic fashion item, a status symbol, the Hermès Kelly bag. A classic fashion design, which never goes out of style. The value of this iconic Hermès bag keeps increasing and increasing.

But if it wasn’t for one ‘glamour moment’, the Kelly might’ve had a different name!


The Hermès Kelly bag has quite the history. It took about 50 years before it officially got the name Kelly. It all started in 1892 when Hermès designed the first prototype of the bag, the ‘Haut à courroies’, a bag designed to hold a horse saddle. This bag was the inspiration for a plain and simple bag that was designed for the wife of Émile-Maurice Hermès, who said she couldn’t find the perfect handbag. In 1935, Robert Dumas redesigned the 1923 bag, creating the glamorous and elegant bag ‘Sac à dépêches’, which is the original name of the Kelly. A bag which stands for nobility and understated good taste.

"A functional bag intended for independent, energetic woman" – Hermès about the Sac à dépêches.

Why is the Kelly named Kelly?

It’s impossible to think about a time where the Hermès Kelly wasn’t the iconic bag that it is today. However, it actually got accidentally famous in 1956. It just so happens that Hollywood star Grace Kelly was photographed using the Sac à dépêches to hide her baby bump from the press.
Grace Kelly, a known as a famous actress, fashion icon, and later, Princess of Manaco, was gifted the bag in 1954 to use in the movie To Catch a Thief. The photo ended up on front pages of magazines all over the world, and that’s when people started calling the Hermes bag ‘The Kelly bag’. After this moment the Hermès Kelly gained more popularity everywhere, becoming a sought after status symbol for fashionable woman.
The bag Grace Kelly was seen with, can still be viewed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. Even though the bag was widely known as the Kelly bag since 1956, it actually was not renamed until 1977!

The photograph of Grace Kelly that brought fame to the Kelly bag

The photograph and bag that made the Hermès Kelly bag famous – Photo by catawiki

The design of the bag

One of the things making the Kelly unique are the various reinventions. Multiple colors, materials, different details, there have been unique Hermès Kelly’s ever since 1987. We’ve seen Kelly’s in wood, cardboard, chocolate, straw, silk, you name it and there’s probably a Kelly out of it! However, you’ll always be able to recognize by it’s trapezoid shape, two triangular gussets, the sculpted flap.

The Kelly comes in seven different sizes ranging from 15 to 40 CM in width. In addition, there are also mini and petite wallet versions, these are known as Kelly Pochette and Kelly Cut, and you will even be able to find a Kelly shoulder bag or a Kelly travel bag.


The different pieces making up the Hermès Kelly. Showing what goes into the design.
“Thirty-six leather pieces assembled by a craftsman devoted to beautiful, noble gestures, six-hundred-and-eighty hand stitches, sixteen small studs, a padlock, a swivel clasp and a leather key cover or ‘clochette’.” - Hermès

Why are they so expensive?

The expensive price tag around a Kelly is related to a couple of things. First off, Hermès yearly increases all of it’s bags in price, usually this is an increase between 5% and 10%. Second, all Kelly’s are made with a great amount craftmanship, Hermès stands for great quality. Just like with the Birkin, or any other Hermès bag, each Kelly is created by one single artisan in one of Hermès’s ateliers. It takes about 20 to 25 working hours to make one Kelly! And third, Hermès produces a limited amount of new Kelly’s every year. This is because of the precise craftmanship, long working hours, and hard to find materials that go into each bag. The limitation of new bags are the reason for the years-long waiting lists at Hermès. Even though a new Kelly isn’t as scarce as a Birkin, they are still unique and special enough for the prices to grow bigger every year. But like Grace Kelly said: “…you don’t get anything for nothing. Everything has to be earned, through work, persistence and honesty.”

Fun fact: The most expensive Kelly bag ever was made from solid rose gold, mimicking crocodile leather, featuring 1160 diamond. It was sold for 2 million US dollars!

How to get a Hermès Kelly?

If you want to buy a Kelly bag, you need to be very patient. If you want to buy a Kelly fresh out of the Hermès atelier, you can place an order with Hermès to select your preferred leather type and color. The only problem is that the Hermès atelier in Paris only takes orders twice a year. After placing your order all you can do is wait, unfortunately, the Hermès waiting list are known to last forever…

You could get luckier trying to find a vintage Kelly on the preloved market. You will definitely faster get your hands on one! We are lucky enough to sometimes find some amazing Kelly bags. You can check our webshop or send us a message to find out if we have a Kelly in our stores (we don’t always put all our bags on our webshop, so you might get lucky if you send us a message!)

With love, Millie and Jessica


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