The Kelly Bag, originally named the Sac à dépêches, was designed by Robert Dumas in 1930. Robert Dumas, the son-in-law of Émile-Maurice Hermes, designed the ladies’ handbag for the house of Hermes. There are many Hermes kelly bags took the world by storm in 1956 when actress, Grace Kelly, famously hid her baby bump from photographers in a Life Magazine photo. Kelly became enthralled by the Kelly bag during her time on the set of the Alfred Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief. In 1954, during the production of the film, Hitchcock asked Edith Head, a costume designer, to purchase Hermes items as props. Grace Kelly, the lead actress, got to keep her Sac à dépêches bag. The public soon referred to it as “the Kelly Bag” after Kelly’s Life magazine appearance. The bag’s name was not officially changed to “The Kelly” until over 20 years later in 1977.
The Design of the Kelly
The Kelly bag comes in a trapezoidal style with a center clasp and a handle. The bag is handcrafted by a team of artisans with 36 leather pieces and 680 stitches. The studs of the bag are added by using a special Hermes’ method called “pearling.”
The Hermes pearling method ensures that the hardware stays on for a lifetime, unlike screws, which can fall out over time. Each bag takes anywhere from 18 to 25 hours to make. The Sellier or saddler, externally stitched, was the first version of the bag. The Retourne version, internally stitched, arrived seven years later. The Sellier version is known for its sleek, angular look, while the Retourne is popular for its flexible, more casual look. The Kelly comes in a wide range of sizes including 25, 32 and 40 centimeters, with travel bags being the larger and casual or evening bags being the of smaller. The smallest bag made was the vintage Micro Kelly, sized at 15 centimeters. The largest Kelly bag, well suited for travel, is made at 50 centimeters.
The Modern Kelly
By the end of the 1980s, the Kelly Bag had been made into various materials including denim, mink, and feathers. In 2000, Jean-Louis Dumas designed the Kellydoll version of the bag. The Kellydoll is handcrafted like the others but with a twist, it smiles back at you. The bag is adorably designed with face, hands, and feet with the center clasp appearing as the nose. The bag’s “kawaii” style gained notoriety as a fan favorite in Japan. Being a rare find, collectors can expect to pay over $50,000 for it.
Although the Hermes Company was well-known for bringing the Hermes Fastener or zipper to Europe in 1914, a zip was not added until the Kellylakis version in 2004. In 2011, a wicker version of the bag was made designed the idea of picnics in mind. The bag is made of wicker material along with Barenia, an in-house Hermes leather. The most recent edition of the Kelly, The Kellygraphie, was released in 2018. Although features of the bag have been added and changed over the years, the bag still remains best-selling item at Hermes to date.