It seems every other woman is totting a Louis Vuitton or a Gucci handbag. These days it seems luxury handbags have gone mainstream, leaving little to lust over when everyone has one– but before you start to panic, bite at your shiny shellac polish, rest assured that one designer in particular still shines bright as a diamond: Hermes.
Getting your hands on a Hermes handbag is like announcing to the world that you’ve made it– even for celebrities who almost always make one of their first big purchases, post-stardom, a Hermes handbag.
Who is Hermes?
Hermes purses and leather goods are gorgeous, a hot commodity that only a very small percentage of the world actually owns, but how did one handbag maker get the right to sell his bags for $10,000 and more? The French manufacturer got its start in 1837 when Thierry Hermes started up a harness shop for the locals, it wasn’t long before his craftsmanship gained recognition as some of the best. Thierry’s son, Charles-Emile Hermes, was a smart successor to his father’s business, expanding the store in 1880 to 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where a Hermes shop remains open for business today. An iconic location, this is where the first handbag was introduced to the consumer, called the Haut à Courroies bag, it was made to help equestrians tote their saddles around. By 1938, with the introduction of scarves to the collection, the brand began penetrating France’s culture. Cool side note, Hermes was the first to introduce the zipper to France, creating a leather golf jacket for the Prince of Wales that no doubt helped further spur their popularity.
Hermes handbags take time to be crafted, in one month only 15 Hermes bags can be completed because every part of the process is done by hand. There are no conveyer belts or long factory lines at Hermes, every person creating these bags is a specialist of some sort—such as at handpicking leather, or welding chains. This attention to detail leaves no room for errors, so although your Hermes might run you $18,000 it will literally be perfect.
The Many Faces of Hermes
When a Hermes handbag comes to mind we instantly think of the Birkin or Kelly bag, but Hermes is no one trick pony! On their website they have a fairly plush collection of handbags starting around a surprisingly $1,200—sure, this might only buy you a beach bag but it’s still a Hermes! A Hermes handbag worth mentioning is The Garden Party tote, a bag regularly carried over the forearm of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon; listed at $3,275, it is the closest in style to the infamous Hermes Kelly or Birkin bag—which you couldn’t even pick up used and in poor condition for under 4k!
Hermes Kelly vs. Hermes Birkin
These two Hermes bags, the Birkin and the Kelly, are often mentioned interchangeably but they are entirely different purses. The Hermes Kelly bag has humble origins—born in the 1930’s it is formally known as the Sac à dépêches; designed as a more elegant bag it has only one hand strap and is stiffer, holding its shape well even when loaded up with goods. Some 26 years later, Grace Kelly, the Princess of Monaco, was photographed holding the bag in Cannes, hence how it got its nickname and its rocket to fame.
The Birkin bag is similar to the Kelly bag but they are not exchangeable, especially not to a Hermes expert! The Birkin is designed as a more casual version of the Kelly bag; ideal for a weekend escape to the waters, or a busy day out on the town, it has two hand straps and a much more slouchy appearance.
Either of these bags is going to cost you a pretty penny, plus they often come with a waiting period. Even buying a used Kelly or Birkin bag will run at least $8,000—it is said that a Birkin, no matter how shabby the condition, will never lose more than half of its original value.
If a Birkin is not fancy enough, the company released their most expensive bag to date in 2012. A 1.9 million dollar evening bag with options: first, you can get this bag with crocodile skin, rose gold, and 1,160 diamonds. Second option is a bag made of intertwining chains and 11,000 diamonds. The only drawback is supply; only 3 of each style were released on the market—with a price tag sure to only increase.
More to Hermes Than a Handbag
As an avid equestrian, I have gone into Hermes a number of times just to sit in the saddles—which they do have out on display at their stores, along with scarves, belts, notebooks, briefcases, and purses of course! The Hermes jewelry line also offers something lovely for anyone who doesn’t mind spending $700 on a cuff bracelet, and for Hermes—who would? In fact, you might even be shocked all Hermes bracelets are not over $1,000!
Hand made goods crafted by skilled, focused, unrushed professionals—it’s a rare treat at best, which is why Hermes has become a label few can say they own but those that do can’t imagine a life without it. Hermes works hard to make their jaw-dropping price tags worth the splurge; just as Hermes was an Olympic god in Greek mythology, when it comes to coveted luxury today, the name Hermes still reins supreme.