It’s known as the Birkin’s more elegant sister. Meet the Hermès Kelly: formerly known the sac à main pour la dame, which translates to “bag for a woman”, it firmly makes the list as one of the most iconic items in fashion history. Born in the 1930s, the design was notoriously bold for its time, with a trapezoidal structure and stiff top handle—it was a veritable unicorn in the era of ultra-femininity.
But what’s in a name: Kelly? The year is 1954, and the costume designer of the romantic thriller To Catch a Thief was granted permission to source some items from Hermès for with soon-to-be princess consort of Monaco, Grace Kelly to wear, beginning a decades-long love story with the brand.
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Kelly, known as “America’s Sweetheart” in her time, has been immortalised in the hallowed halls of style, and married into the Monégasque royal family when she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco at a Cannes Film Festival photocall. Fast forward a few years, when the newly minted princess was expecting her first child, she propelled the bag into the mainstream consciousness when she strategically held the bag in front of her baby bump, in a bid to remain as private as possible. The famous picture, which ultimately landed on the cover of Life magazine, went viral and the public adoringly took to referring to the bag as “The Kelly”, and Hermés officially renamed the bag in her honour in 1977.
And the romanticism doesn’t stop with the name. Each of the coveted bags takes between 18 to 20 hours to make, depending on the expertise of the artisan crafting it, in whose hands the bag will remain from beginning to end.
Made up of exactly 36 pieces of leather, 20 metres of thread and 680 completely hand-sewn stitches—it embodies the word “luxury”. The infamous point sellier (saddle stitch), is the most iconic attribute of the Kelly (and its sister, the Birkin)—a slanted stitch made by using an awl (a puncture tool) to first create a hole for the thread to pass. Two pieces of thread are then interwoven in a single line, resulting in an indestructible stitch, so that even if the thread breaks, the stitch will remain intact.
The distinct stiff briefcase-life handle is the most intricate part of the bag to be made, and takes around four hours and comprises of layers of leather held together by stitches and finished with hot wax to ensure its longevity.
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