Hermès bags: iconic Kelly and Birkin models
History and details of the most iconic bags by Hermès, Kelly, and Birkin
They are snapped up on fashion sites second hand (Rebelle, Vestiaire Collective or The Rea Real), valued almost as new and sometimes even more: indeed the next virtual auction is scheduled on the Artcurial platform, from 7 to 14 May, with a selection of vintage models, and many are already dreaming about which accessory to invest. Kelly or Birkin? Birkin or Kelly? Hard decision
Both bags are a symbol of Made in France style, closely linked to as many icons of the twentieth century: Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin.
The Hermès Kelly bag
The ancestor of the model that we know today was born in the late 1800s, when the Maison created one saddle bag for hunting trips: is the emblem of the saddler savoir-faire. We must wait until the 30s when Robert Dumas creates the sac à courroie, the first trapezoidal woman’s bag, equipped with straps, flap with cut and handle. It is an essential and practical accessory, to all intents and purposes a design bag.
Success came in 1956: in the glossy magazine Life Grace Kelly, the new wife of Prince Rainier of Monaco, is immortalized with the black bag by Hermès. The accessory is immediately noticed, because the Princess holds it in front of her, more precisely on her belly, to conceal the first signs of pregnancy: she is sweetly awaiting the eldest daughter Carolina. A maternal gesture, of protection, to hide the news not yet public from the media. Shortly thereafter, the incident was evident and made the rounds of international newspapers, bringing the sac à courroie pour dames to celebrity e renaming the bag with the name Kelly, in honor of the princess Grace. Not everyone, however, knows that alone in 1977 the bag is officially renamed Kelly Hermès.
Prince Rainier of Monaco, Grace Kelly with the Kelly Hermès bag
Over the years the Kelly bag has been revisited numerous times, playing with sizes, skins and details: Kellylakis, in an augmented version with zip, Kelly Flat, in soft and foldable leather, Kelly Shoulder, inspired by the baguette shape and the result of the creativity of Jean-Paul Gaultier, and the Kelly Mini, in a reduced size capable of holding a tissue, smartphone and little more.
The Hermès Birkin bag
This bag was born from a meeting (by plane) in 1984 between Jean-Louis Dumas, chairman of the Hermès group, e Jane Birkin. The two are close on the Paris-London flight. As can happen in the best French film, the actress’ agenda falls and comments “No agenda and no bag can hold all my sheets“. Fate seems to have brought them together and he, with charm, replies that he would have created a bag large enough and elegant for contain everything. This is how the second Hermès bag was born: it is a 40cm multi-compartment model with two handles and a flap, the polished profile, a pawl and, of course, the saddle stitching.
Jane Birkin with the Hermès Birkin bag
© Michel Dufour
Today Birkin Hermès reaches record auctions, while to order a new model you have to put yourself on the waiting list. And wait, wait … and still wait. Because “it is not a bag, but a Birkin“, citing the words of Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) in Sex & The City.