The Kelly bag

1st February 2021

2 minute read


When I was ten there were very few girls in my immediate surrounding that didn’t dream of being a princess. We were all girl scouts, we had sleepover parties where our moms would make tacos for dinner followed by root beer floats, and we’d watch Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson movies and smear glitter rollers over our cheeks and lips to be extra cool. The thought of being an adult in my 30s was so farfetched, but if I were to have thought about it, I’d have pictured myself as Grace Kelly. 

There are only a few figures in Hollywood’s history that leave behind a legacy as striking and compelling as that of Grace Kelly. The poise and sophistication that oozed and spilled as she accepted her Academy Award for Best Actress in The Country Girl in 1955 was unthinkable and yet imitated so fondly by many to this day.

In 1954, when Rear Window premiered, Grace Kelly had been in only four films and was still widely unknown to the general public. Yet there she was the definition of beauty, and ironically; grace, as yet an icon of style and impossible elegance.   

The first prototype of what is now named the Kelly bag was introduced in 1892, designed to hold a saddle. It was known as the Haut à courroies at the time, because of its high handle, a feature still dominant in todays style. It was in 1923 that a simple and plain bag was designed for Julie Hermès, intended to fit into a car door for seamless and trouble-free transport.

In 1954 Grace Kelly was given an Hermès handbag to wear and carry as a prop in the classic Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief and fell in love with it instantaneously. At the time the leather handbag was of course not yet known as the classic Kelly bag, but as the Sac à dépêches. 

Founded in Paris, France, Hermès which until then specialised in saddlery, added luggage to the brands’ repertoire in 1920.  Hermès is known for not using assembly lines, and allowing only one craftsman to work on a piece at any given time, hand-stitching each individual item. Due to the labor-intensive nature of Hermès production methods and the use of rare materials, sometimes including exotic skins as well as precious metals, one bag can take 18 to 24 hours to create. To this day Hermès remains the definition of luxury. 

Prior to being pictured in Life Magazine, shielding the pregnant stomach of the American Actress, the Sac à dépêches was redesigned a handful more times before it was brought into fashion by and then named after the Monégasque Princess Grace Kelly.

Unlike Chanel, that ended the production of exotic skins two summers ago, Hermès leathers do still include alligator from Florida, buffalo from Pakistan, crocodile from Australia, shark from Thailand, lizard from Malaysia, and oxen, deer, calf, goat, and ostrich from all over the world. All leathers are professionally treated, dyed in an immeasurable array of colours, and handcrafted into bags of all sizes and styles and leather goods such as wallets, shoes and belts.

Today the Kelly bag is a dream bag for many, a must-have for some and in my eyes the icing on the cake to complete only the most fashionable of outfits – the strap allows for a cross body, hands-free look, and the new shaped mini Kelly which landed in 2016, is the perfect day-to-night bag and loved by celebrities from the Kardashians to supermodels and royalty alike. 

There are few contemporary handbags available to purchase that hold such improbable history as the Hermès Kelly bag does. A style that has seen it all; from 1950s Hollywood through to the unprecedented world we live in today. 



** adaptation of article written byFionaWood for