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The Hermès Hall of Fame: The house’s ultimate collector bags

SACLÀB INSIDERS
First things first, let’s get this straight: every Hermès handbag is a work of art. The legendary fashion house’s commitment to craftsmanship, creativity and ultra-luxurious materials is second to none. But as any clued-up collector knows, there are some Hermès styles which have truly earned their place in the handbag hall of fame. Here, we round up our top ten Hermès collector’s pieces to wish for – and watch out for. Susannah Wilkinson

The So Black styles

When: 2010

Why it’s a collector’s piece: Hermès’ So Black collection is a true rarity on the secondhand market. Released by Hermès’ then creative director Jean Paul Gaultier, this collection was a darkly subversive twist on the brand’s classic styles. The black PVD coating on the hardware, combined with saturated-black leather, proved irresistible to collectors – yet Hermès quickly stopped production once reports of hardware chipping began to emerge. As such, JPG’s monochromatic masterpieces are as short in supply as they are high in demand. Look out for So Black Birkin 30s and 35s, Kelly 32s and 35s, as well as Kelly Pochettes, Kelly Cuts and Constance Longues. 

Budget: From £20,000 for a Kelly, £50,000 for a Birkin

A Hermès Birkin So Black 30 at Christie's sold in a 2017 HK auction

The Sterling Silver Kelly 15

When: 1990s onwards

Why it’s a collector’s piece: More fine jewellery than mere handbag, the Sterling Silver Kelly 15 first made an appearance in the 1990s, and was most recently seen in the hands of (a very lucky) Kylie Jenner. Incredibly rare, this Micro Mini treasure has a pure, mirror-like finish, detachable Chaîne d’Ancre strap and its own special presentation box. Unlike other Kellys, the Sterling Silver Kelly is crafted with a hinged opening at the top – and as you can imagine, only has room for a lipstick and a credit card or two inside!

Budget: £50,000

Sterling Hermes Kelly 15 silver Kelly mini Moda Operandi

A sterling silver Hermès Kelly Mini (15cm) sold at Moda Operandi

The Shadow Birkin

When: 2009

Why it’s a collector’s piece: Another stroke of genius from the avant-garde mind of Jean Paul Gaultier, the Shadow Birkin took the signature hardware of Hermès’ most iconic bag and turned it into a trompe l’oeil illusion through playfully embossed leather. Rather than having a clasped flap over the top, this bag is left open. A lesson in how the simplest designs can have the biggest impact.

Budget: £35,000

The shadow Birkin was released in 2009 by Hermès which tells its History very lovingly on its own website (image rights: Hermès)

The Kelly Doll

When: 2000

Why it’s a collector’s piece: One look at the Kelly Doll and you can understand its charm. Dreamt up while Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas was doodling one day, this anthropomorphic reimagination of the Kelly showcases the brand’s more whimsical side. The size of a Kelly 15 and produced in a rainbow of colours, one especially delightful aspect of this petite bag is that the arms are articulated – so you can set your Kelly Doll into whatever pose your heart desires.

Budget: £40,000

The Kelly Doll was invented by Jean-Louis Dumas in 2000 (image rights: Hermès)

The Himalayas

When: Late ‘00s onwards

Why it’s a collector’s piece: Hermès’ most headline-grabbing design, Himalaya Birkin and Kelly bags are only offered to the house’s top VIP clients. The bags are crafted from Nile crocodile hide, expertly dyed to echo the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas. Himalaya Birkins and Kellys come with either palladium hardware or diamond-encrusted white gold hardware – the latter of which has proven to be a world record breaker at auction. In rare instances you’ll also find the Himalaya moniker attached to other accessories, such as the Kelly Longue.  

Budget: £80,000–100,000

Hermès Birkin 30 Niloticus Himalaya Blanc

The Birkin 30 Niloticus Himalaya on saclab.com

The Osier Picnic Kelly

When: 2011

Why it’s a collector’s piece: First introduced by Hermès in 2011, the Picnic Kelly is the perfect summer style, made from woven wicker with a jaunty leather trim reminiscent of a traditional picnic basket. Yet again, it’s testament to the skill of the house’s artisans: wicker is a notoriously difficult and delicate material to work with. Over the years, Hermès has occasionally returned to the Picnic, producing limited-edition styles such as a Mini Picnic Kelly 20, and reissues of the original Kelly 35 size.

Budget: £70,000

OSIER-PICNIC-KELLY-VOGUE-RUNWAY

THE OSIER PICNIC KELLY ON VOGUE RUNWAY

The Plush Teddy Shearling Kelly

When: 2005

Why it’s a collector’s piece: Just as the Picnic Kelly is our dream summer accessory, the Plush Kelly 35 is made for the slopes of St Moritz or Chamonix. Suede (Doblis) Birkin and Kelly bags are a rarity in their own right, but this limited-edition runway style, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for his Fall/Winter 2005 collection, adds extra cosiness with a luscious shearling trim. We love that the shearling even runs along the underside of the top handle – who needs gloves when you can snuggle into this?

Budget: £40,000–50,000

The Metallic Chèvre Birkin 25

When: 2005

Why it’s a collector’s piece: In April 2020, Hermès suffered a devastating loss – the passing of Tunisian artist Leïla Menchari, who between 1977 and 2013 designed 136 magical window displays for the brand’s flagship Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré store. From Morrocan souks to under-the-sea grottos, Menchari was so visionary in her set pieces that they even warranted an exhibition at the Grand Palais in 2017: Hermès à Tire d’Aile: The Worlds of Lëila Menchari. Thematic bags were often created for these fantastical scenes, which were – tantalisingly – not for public sale (although you will occasionally see them cropping up on the secondhand market). However this changed in 2005, when, inspired by a one-off piece made for a Menchari window, Hermès released a range of limited-edition metallic gold, silver and bronze chèvre Birkins, Kellys and Constances. These shimmering bags, in particular the Birkin 25, are seriously coveted by collectors.

Budget: £100,000

The Metallic Chèvre Birkin 25 Sold on Christie’s in 2017

The Feather Kelly

When: Once in a blue moon

Why it’s a collector’s piece: A particular favourite of SACLÀB co-founder Oliver Stueck, the Feather Kelly is a rare bird. Made in partnership with haute couture feather specialist Maison Lemarié, these one-of-a-kind Kelly bags very occasionally flutter onto the secondhand market. Each feather is painstakingly attached by hand to the front panel to form a breathtaking pattern of plumage. We’ve seen special-edition Hermès bags adorned with peacock, guineafowl and even rooster feathers.

Budget: £120,000

The Lizard Micro Mini Kelly 15

When: 1980s

Why it’s a collector’s piece: This diminutive bag combines two collectable features in one: it’s Micro Mini size, discontinued by Hermès over two decades ago, and its use of lizard skin. You’ll often find lizard leather used on only the smaller Hermès styles, simply due to the practicalities of working with this ultra-delicate, precious material. Make sure to look out for vintage Micro Mini Kellys, dating from the ‘80s, rather than Hermès’s newer release: the Kelly 20 Mini II.

Budget: £15,000–20,000

A Hermès Kelly Mini made from Lizard leather sold on Christie’s in late 2018


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