HERMÈS KELLY BAG (1956)

The Hermès Kelly bag is perhaps the iconic bag of the 20th century. Its combination of demure simplicity and unabashed luxury makes it the epitome of classic style. With its clean trapezoid body, graceful arched handle, shallow flap and signature locking belt, it has endured far more than half a century.

Despite its celebrity status throughout the years, the birth of the bag was muted. Originally designed in the 1930s by Robert Dumas-Hermès (1898-1978), the bag was, for all its exquisite craftmanship, eminently practical – a kind of travel bag for the age of automobile. It took the glamour of a Hollywood movie star to transform it into an international trendsetting must-have.

In 1956, Grace Kelly, recently married to the Prince Rainier of Monaco, was scarcely out of the media. And in almost every photograph, she appeared with one or another of her beloved Hermès bags. It was a golden marketing opportunity, so Hermès negotiated with the Monaco royal family to rename the bag in the honor of the princess.

A vintage advertisement for the Hermès Kelly bag

In the following decades, the Kelly spawned a whole family of variants: in some eight sizes, 20 different materials and a plethora of colors and patterns. In reality, the Birkin bag is a little more than an upscale Kelly. However, superb craftsmanship has remained vital to the Kelly’s cachet. It is lavished on every detail, from the double-stitching and goatskin interior, as well as its four little square feet.

Lady Gaga carrying an Hermès Kelly bag

With its price tag of thousand dollars, and a waiting list similar to the Birkin, the Kelly bag remains steadfastly as an object of desire.