Mention the brand Hermès and the “Birkin” or “Kelly” bags instantly come to mind. These iconic bags have come to be synonymous with the brand itself, gathering a cult following and even enticing women the world over to sit eagerly on a six year-long waiting list before shelling out somewhere between $16,000 to $268,600 to land their hands on one.
Unlike It-bags of today, which rise to popularity as quickly as they fall, these iconic bags never wane in appeal. In other words, they never go out of style – and that’s a key quality that gives investment handbags an insumerable value.
It’s needless to say that they’ve built for themselves an unmatchable legacy that stands strong even up till today, but why is that exactly? Why are they valued at such a high price, and are they worth all the hype?
To answer these questions, we’re digging into the history and makings of the brand’s key handbags, from the fastidious attention to detail in craftsmanship to their quintessential position in fashion history. Let’s start with the most valuable handbag in the world:
The crème de la crème of handbags, the Hermès Birkin is one of the most sought after bags of all time, with its exalted icon status and waitlist that falls between two to six years.
It currently comes in four different sizes – 25cm, 30cm, 35cm and the 40cm travel Birkin, and new colours or exotic animal skins are introduced each season.
Its legacy began with a simple gentlemanly gesture. Jane Birkin, a famous singer and actress in the ‘70s, was on an Air France flight when she spilled the contents of her handbag all over the floor. Her fellow passenger happened to be Jean-Louis Dumas, the then-chief executive of Hermès, who was inspired to design a new bag based on Jane’s description of her ideal bag – one that had to have pockets. Dumas then modernised the original Hermès Haut à Courroies bag and made it easier to carry, Jane lent her name to the design, and bam – the Hermès Birkin was born in 1984.
The Birkin is unrivalled in terms of its quality. Hermès regards each and every Birkin bag as a piece of art, working with only elite craftsmen with extensive experience for the creation of the Birkin bag. In fact, a single artisan can be credited for the creation of a Birkin from start to finish, which takes them them a span of two days. Talk about commitment.
Due to this intricate and detailed creation process, production of Birkin bags is limited to a minimal number each year. It’s considered nearly impossible to purchase one directly from the store, which creates an aura around the Birkin bags as an unobtainable bag, a prized possession of sorts.
Since the launch of the Birkin bag, the price has reportedly risen by an average of 14.2 per cent per year, which has garnered the attention of investors as the steadily increasing value makes it a good and safe investment. Sure, they’re expensive (one bag costs anywhere in the tens of thousands), but they can also have a high resale value. So when we say investment bag, we mean it literally with the Hermès Birkin.
From one iconic handbag to another, Hermès’ Kelly bag has a structured trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets for good storage space, a sculpted flap and a top handle. It was designed by Robert Dumas in the ‘30s before it was sensationalised in 1956 when Hollywood actress-turned-princess-of-Monaco Grace Kelly used different versions of the bag to hide her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
It takes around 18 to 25 hours to create a single Kelly bag, and each bag is said to have about 2,600 hand stitches. With its innate elegance and ladylike charm, its demand is also one of the highest in the world, cashing in at $13,400 and up.
Though it looks pretty similar to the Birkin, the Kelly is considered a top handle bag, as it has only one handle and comes with a detachable shoulder strap while the Birkin is a tote bag; it has two handles.
Another difference lies in the closure system; the Kelly requires the flap to be closed to minimise strain on the handle while the Birkin is often carried with the lock undone, allowing for more convenience of the wearer.
Photo: Instagram / it.handbag
Yet another handbag made famous by high-profile clientele, the Hermès Constance was a favourite of first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis and was hence made an absolute must-have in the ‘60s.
Designed in 1959, the Constance has a sleek boxy shape and a strap which can be fully extended to wear long on the shoulder or shortened. Its most striking element is its iconic “H’ buckle.
Well-loved for its compact size, the Constance is a great alternative for those who prefer a smaller, niftier receptacle as compared to the Birkin or Kelly. It continues to be one of the most hard-to-acquire Hermès bags too, with its popularity among celebs and style icons like Chiara Ferragni, Diane Kruger and Mary Kate Olsen. Though it may pale in comparison to the Birkin or Kelly’s prestige, the Constance has a certain je ne sais quoi that grants it a classic status among It-bags.
There are five sizes: The micro, mini, 23cm, 24cm and a wider, narrower version called the Elan. Prices range from $5,503 to $13,277.
One of the first Hermès bags to ever be designed, the Bolide bag was created back in 1923 as a gift from Emile-Maurice Hermès (the son of the brand’s original founder) to his wife. As if there weren’t enough reasons to establish it as a fashion icon, the Bolide also made fashion history by being the first ever handbag to use a zipper, as handbags back then had only used metal clasps.
Designed as a travel bag, the Bolide is perfectly functional for road trips and long flights with its zippered compartment that can house your passport, keys, and other travel essentials.
Featuring an oval patch design, a domed zip closure, dual tubular top handles and a long strap, this handbag has a emotive relationship to the house and is valued circa $11,150.
There are two versions of the Bolide Bag – the Web Bolide and the original Bolide. The former has an external pocket and a two-way zip closure while the latter has only a single-zip closure – a detail that made it famous in the ‘20s.
Managing to appear both contemporary and classic, the Hermès Bolide is a true gem.
The Garden Party
Probably one of the Hermès bags that is considerably easier to land your hands on (read: without having to wait two years), the Garden Party is a classic tote with tubular handles, expandable snap sides, a slouchy silhouette and a flat base.
Available in three sizes (Small, Medium and Large), they are typically made from leather (Negonda or Buffalo), or a canvas-leather blend while the interior could be lined with linen, as a leather base maintains the bag’s structure.
The Garden Party also happens to be one of the more affordable bags from Hermès, with prices ranging from $3,198 to $5,778. The main reason why it’s so popular is because it's a great entry-level bag; it has all the functionality of a roomy carry-all, a timeless and classy silhouette and is elegant enough to team with almost any look.