One of the most illustrious luxury designer bags ever created, the Hermès Kelly is a highly coveted bag. Whenever a Kelly bag enters our pre-loved Hermès collection here at Timeless Vintage, you definitely have to act fast to snap them up! It really is the pinnacle handbag that many aspire to own. So if you’re looking to understand more about the brand and the history of the Hermès Kelly bag, discover when it was created and how it rose to fame below.

History of the Hermès Kelly bag

Founded in 1837, the Hermès brand is steeped in history. It’s one of the oldest luxury brands that are still trading and like many long-established, high fashion brands, Hermès initially supplied equestrian goods. After beginning as an equestrian harness workshop, the brand soon entered the women’s handbag fashion scene.

The Kelly bag was inspired by one of the first Hermès bags that debuted in the early 1900s. Originally known as the Haut à Courroies, this Hermès bag was created to carry a saddle and riding boots, so it was a fairly large size.

Photo of a Haut à Courroies Travel Bag 50 by Aschenputtel

Two decades later, in the 1920s, a collection of women’s handbags was created by Émile-Maurice Hermès. After his wife was unable to find a handbag that she loved, Émile-Maurice set out to design a bag for her. 

A Photo of Émile-Maurice Hermès, the creator of the Hermes Kelly

Many of these bags followed the style of the Haut à Courroies bag, with a boxy, top-handled design. One of these bags was the Hermès Bugatti.

The ‘first’ Hermès Kelly bag

Heavily influenced by the bags created by his father-in-law, Émile-Maurice Hermès, in the 1930s Robert Dumas created a new bag. Originally known as the Sac à Dépêches, this new bag style featured the familiar boxy, trapezium shape that is now so synonymous with the Kelly.

It was designed to be roomy and in complete contrast to the slim, rectangular purses that women usually wore.

Grace Kelly’s original Hermès Sac à Dépêches, later christened the Kelly bag in her honour. Photo: Bagism

Where did the Hermès Kelly name come from?

In the 1950s, the actress Grace Kelly used the Hermès Sac à Dépêches in the film ‘To Catch a Thief’. After falling in love with its style, she went on to pair it frequently with her outfits after filming was completed.

Grace Kelly from the trailer of the film ‘To Catch a Thief’

A few years later, it was one particular paparazzi shot that changed the course of the bag’s history. After marrying into the Royal Family of Monaco, Grace Kelly, now known as the Princess of Monaco, was photographed using the bag to discreetly disguise her baby bump.

After appearing in news stories and articles and featuring on the cover of the popular Life magazine, the bag became highly desirable because of its link to the film star turned Princess.

After becoming so deeply associated with Grace Kelly, in 1977 Hermès formally renamed the bag in her honour.

The History of the Hermès Kelly Bag
Photo of Prince Rainier & Grace Kelly

The rise in popularity of the Hermès Kelly

Ever since its meteoric rise to prominence in the late 1950s, the Kelly bag remains one of the most popular and expensive handbags of all time. It has since been sold in various sizes and shades, and limited edition styles.

Customised Kelly handbags are not uncommon, although these are usually reserved for influential figures.

A Photo of a Exotic Crocodile Skin Hermes Kelly Bag

As demand grew, the brand made the significant decision to begin limiting the supply of Kelly and Birkin bags. Most fashion brands with a top-selling product may aim to increase sales. But with Hermès, the low availability and exclusivity of the Hermès Kelly increase the desirability.

Many other luxury designer brands have taken a similar approach, including when Dawn Mello reduced the product inventory of Gucci.

Pre-loved Hermès Kelly Handbags

The wait lists for a Hermès Kelly bag are as elusive as they are long, so how can you get your hands on one?

A secondhand Hermès Kelly is often one of the most popular routes to owning a bag. Plus it’s a great way to participate in the slow fashion movement. However, the secondhand market for high ticket Hermès bags moves extremely quickly. So if you find a Hermès Kelly that catches your eye you’ll need to act fast.

Even purchased secondhand, a Hermès Kelly bag is a steadfast investment, as prices steadily increase year after year.


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