10 minutes with... The Hermes Kelly

Hermes Kelly Retourne 32 Hermes Vert Anis Coromandel Chevre Kelly Retourne 32, date stamp for 2005. Estimate: £3000 - £5000.

Ahead of the Designer Handbags and Fashion auction on 26 September, Head of Department Meg Randell discusses the iconic and ultra-chic Hermes Kelly.

French fashion is renowned for its timeless, classic designs and no fashion house epitomises this more than Paris-based luxury brand Hermes. There are two classic Kelly styles, the hardsided ‘Sellier’, boxy and structured in appearance and the soft sided ‘Retourne’ that has a more rounded look. The Kelly bag was originally designed by Robert Dumas in the 1930’s as a ‘sac a courroie pour dames’, meaning ‘bags with strap for ladies.’ It was later renamed after the Hollywood actress and Monégasque princess Grace Kelly when she held the bag up to shield her pregnancy from paparazzi flash bulbs.

Hermes black calf Kelly Sellier 32, date stamp for 1955. Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500

Born in 1929, Kelly grew up in Philadelphia and in 1950, launched her career as an actress. At the age of 20, Kelly appeared on the New York stage and in countless live drama productions broadcast in the early 1950’s, otherwise known as the Golden Age of Television. In October 1953, she won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for her role in Mogambo. Following this success, she starred in films including The Country Girl, High Noon and High Society with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Kelly became one of the most influential actresses in Hollywood and at the age of 26, married Prince Rainier III and subsequently became the Princess Consort of Monaco; a Principality bordered by France.

Kelly was renowned for her glamorous appearance and Hermes was one of her most loved brands. Hermes often accompanied her to important public events, including when she announced her engagement and pregnancies. When Kelly was photographed shielding herself from paparazzi using the original Sac à dépêches bag , the photograph became an overnight sensation across the globe and bag was renamed. The bag proved an instant hit with celebrities in Europe and the US and remains a highly coveted, status symbol today.

Aside from the fact that the production quota is stringent, the Hermes Kelly is handcrafted with the utmost dedication and skill, using the highest quality leather and by an individual craftsman. On average, it takes around 18 hours to produce one of the bags.

Hermes burgundy Kelly Retourne 28, date stamp for 1982. Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500