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Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Buying an Hermès Kelly

If you're interested in buying this iconic Hermès bag, read through!
Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Buying an Hermès Kelly
IMAGE Hermes, Christies, Life Magazine
ILLUSTRATOR Bacs Arcebal
If you're interested in buying this iconic Hermès bag, read through!

Since it graced the arm of Hollywood-actress-slash-European-royal Grace Kelly, the Hermès Kelly has cemented itself as a symbol of elegance and sophistication to the highest degree. If you're planning on purchasing one, here's what you need to know. 

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What is an Hermes Kelly?

The Hermès Kelly is one of the brand’s most popular handbags, featuring a trapezoid silhouette, cutout flap, a top handle, two side straps for the metal closing, and a padlock with keys. 

Hermes Kelly Bag
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Who created the Kelly?

Tracing back Hermès' long history, the bag was primarily created for equestrian practice long before it was known to be the Kelly we know now. In 1923, Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti created it for Émile-Maurice's wife, Julie, in order for it to carry her riding saddle and to fit the car door.

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In the 1930s, Émile-Maurice's son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned the Kelly to become a spacious travel bag called Sac à dépêches. He is credited to have fashioned the roomy, and boxy shape of the Kelly, which was a stark contrast to the flat and envelope-like bag designs of the time.

Who is the "Kelly" it’s named after?

In 1954, To Catch a Thief costume designer Edith Hud dressed the Hollywood star Grace Kelly in Hermès accessories. Grace Kelly ended up falling in love with the bag and kept wearing it after the film had wrapped up. However, the bag truly hit icon status when the star-turned-princess was photographed wearing it, using it to cover her growing baby bump. The bag then quickly rose in mainstream popularity, with people calling it the Kelly. In 1977, Hermès made it official, and changed the name of the bag to Kelly. 

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Grace Kelly spotted wearing Hermes Kelly

Who makes the Kelly?  

The Kelly is made in the Hermès workshop in Paris. As with all Hermès pieces, it is made by skilled artisans with at least ten years of training under their belt. They do not employ an assembly line system. Instead, they have one craftsman work on one bag, clocking in at least 18 hours up to a gruelling 25-hour work time to finish handcrafting a single bag from scratch.

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Hermes Kelly bag parts

How is the Kelly made?

Hermès prides itself in maintaining their long-standing traditional practices in production. For the Kelly, the textiles are firstly sourced from all over the world. Kelly bags are made with some of the finest and rarest materials ranging from crocodiles in Australia, to lizards in Malaysia. After they are sourced, they are professional treated and dyed to the desired effect. Next, the handles are constructed, shaped and stitched by hand. It is then dyed to match the shade of the handbag, and covered in a layer of wax for protection. Finally, the handbag is assembled together to perfection, complete with the metal hardware. Overall, one Kelly Bag takes up to 18 hours to make.

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What is the most expensive Kelly ever sold?

Most expensive Hermes Kelly bag ever sold

As with the Birkin, the most expensive Kelly ever sold was made of the extremely rare white Himalayan Nile crocodile skin. According to Christie's, the "designation ‘Himalaya’ does not apply to the origin of the bag, but rather to the delicate gradation of the colour. The smoky grey fades into a pearly white, resembling the majestic, snow-capped Himalayas." Therefore, on top of the rarity of the material, it is also the time-consuming process of dyeing a crocodile hide that made the bag's price soar. The Himalaya Kelly was sold for HKD 1,875,000, or approximately P11,686,753 in a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong in 2019. 

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What are the different sizes of Kelly Bags?

The Hermès Kelly bags are sold in eight sizes, ranging from 15 centimeters to 50 centimeters.

What are the different kinds of Kelly Bags?

The two kinds of Hermès Kelly Bags are the Sellier and the Retourne.

The Sellier

The Sellier is more boxy and structured in shape, and has no visible piping. It’s considered a more formal bag because of its  rigidity.

Hermes Kelly Sellier bag
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The Retourne

The Retourne is more slouchy and rounded (seen most clearly on the edges), and has no visible piping. It’s considered a more casual bag as the shape is more relaxed.

Hermes Kelly Retourne bag 

How much is a Kelly bag in 2020?

The price of an Hermès Kelly highly depends on the type of textile used to create it. If you’d like to purchase one of the more standard leather designs, the purse can cost around USD 9000 or P433,080. For more exotic skins (for which Hermès is extremely well-known for), the purse can cost around USD 40,000 or P1,924,800.

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Hermes Kelly bag

Where can I buy a Kelly bag?

Like its elusive sister, the Birkin, the Kelly is a challenge to get a hold of, to say the least. To buy from Hermès directly is a process (and one that involves being a celebrity or a millionaire, no big deal). And even when you get on that Kelly waiting list, it's infamous for having one of the longest waiting periods in the luxury world. 

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Your chances are better in the second hand market, with retailers such as farfetch.com and therealreal.com, or with credible local personal shoppers.

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