I started a series called: Luxury Designer Bag Investments – Are they actually worth the money? and will be going into the history & background, along with as many notes as possible into each Iconic Bag and how it reached Cult Status… and presumably stayed there!
As there are many bags, I will be posting a new one every week until I run out. 🙂
Today, introducing the…
Hermès Kelly Bag
HISTORY: Why & how it became famous
The original Hermès Kelly Bag and Birkin bags were based on a prototype of a bag from 1892 meant to hold a saddle or boots known then as a Haut a courroies because of its high handle because they were into equestrian accessories in the past and they looked like this, a lot like the modern-day Birkin:
In 1923 when Emile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti designed a bag for Hermes’s wife Julie. It was simple and elegant and was intended to fit perfectly through an automobile car door and it was named in 1928 the Sac à dépêches to carry papers and news as the first ‘hand bag’.
It was then further changed into a boxier elegant ladies bag which could be fastened with one hand and stand on it’s own little feet.
It got its name in 1956 when Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco used the ‘Sac à Dépêches’ as a shield to cover up her pregnant belly.
She received the bag in 1954 to use in the Hitchcock movie “To Catch a Thief”. It was not until 1977 that it was officially named the “Kelly Bag”. This lead to the cover of Life Magazine featuring a picture of her in 1956.
The actual bag carried by Princess Grace of Monaco can still be seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum shown below:
Every Hermès Kelly bag is unique; every bag is hand made by a craftsman. It takes about 25 hours per bag and the Kelly bag has 2600 hand stitches.
The Kelly was designed as a luxury bag to be worn by ‘the princesses of the world’ and is therefore more elegant, and the Kelly requires the flap to be closed while wearing it.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE KELLY EVER SOLD WAS….
The Hermès 32cm Matte Geranium Porosus Crocodile & Black Togo Leather Sellier Kelly Bag with Feet for $ 125,000.
I think it is hideous. But… it is unique, for sure.
Interesting thread on prices back in the 50s and 60s
I loved this posted on the forum by ladysarah:
I don’t remember the price in the 80s – but the original [Chanel Classic Flap] 2.55 sold in 1955 for USD $220 in my grandparents boutique. The Hermes Kelly was $200 in 1963.
My grandmother first introduced me to some of the most gorgeous fashion, and classic couture. She believed in having a summer and winter wardrobe, and so twice a year, my mother and I would go over and help her.
We would go through her closet and pack up everything. Then, we would go to the wardrobe and unpack all of her bags, shoes, gloves, hats, dresses, suits, skirts and blouses.
She would tell us stories of each of the pieces, when she received it, and how she got it.
She told about being fitted by Gabrielle Chanel for a black dress back when she and my Grandfather were in Paris, and how she received another bag as a gift from an admirer (my grandfather) and how she refused it because it was far too much. She would be considered fast if she accepted a gift like that! (He saved it, and gave it to her after they were married)
I just loved the history, and feeling like I was part of what was being made. I understood my place in fashion – how fashion affects me, and how I can change fashion.
HOW TO SPOT A FAKE KELLY
- The stamp is clear, the E is È and the stamp matches the hardware
- Stamp is close to the stitching, centered and even
- The lock is attached directly to the leather band and made of 1 piece of leather
- The bag doesn’t slouch and stays upright
- Stitching is slightly angled, tight and precise, same colour as the bag
- Cutouts for the straps are clean and straight
- The zippers are engraved with the word Hermès & is smooth and uniform
- No authenticity card or hang tags
- Bottom feet won’t twist off on a Kelly
PRICE LIST for the Hermès Kelly handbag
|Year||Price in $USD|
RETURNS ON A HERMES KELLY BAG
The bag has returned 534% in value since 1963 when it originally cost $200.
If we normalize it to 2020 dollars, $200 back in 1963 is now $1687.03
In stores, it sells for $10,700 in 2020, for a difference of $9012.97 or 534% over what its price would be, taking inflation solely into account.
(Remember, value is also subjective because someone has to see that and buy it from you at that price, just like with stocks, but a lot trickier to liquidate. Also, who is going to buy an old bag when they can buy a new one for the same price?)
The S&P 500 had you invested that same $200 and not touched it or added any money to it, would have returned: $22,943.65 even with the recent 2020 drop due to the virus:
I suspect that this is one of those situations where if it is super rare, or owned by an iconic person, it wouldn’t resell for any less than $100,000, even though the bag only cost $10,700 at retail today.
If you want to read more…
- Purse Blog Forum: Discussion on Vintage Hermès Kelly
- Catawiki: 10 facts about the Kelly
- Bags of Luxury: The history of the Kelly Bag
- Worthly: The complete history of the Kelly Bag
Loved this? You can see the rest of the luxury designer bag comparisons in this series here: Luxury Designer Bag Series.