It might come as a shock that for a brand so well-known for their leather handbags, Hermès didn’t even add them to their product lineuntil 1922—a full 85 years after Thierry Hermès founded the company!
The 1920s and 1930s were the beginning of a new age of stardom, with movie icons suddenly taking over the public imagination and setting a new standard for fashion and luxury.
It’s into that world that Hermès was able to sell their first wildly successful bag, and one that remains popular to this day—thesac à dépêches (“dispatch bag”), later named the Kelly bag after actress Grace Kelly.
The second hit bag, and the one that remains most popular today, is the Hermès Birkin bag, christened in 1984 after the actress Jane Birkin.
It came about from a conversation in a plane between then-CEO Jean-Louis Dumas and actress Jane Birkin, who said she needed a slightly larger bag than the ones Hermès sold.
If there’s one thing that Hermès is known for, it’s their impeccable attention to detail.
Hermès bags are world-renown for their extreme quality and design using only the very finest of luxury materials.
Even the most basic bags are made of fine Hermès leather, but the more expensive designs include unique and rare materials, including alligator, ostrich, water buffalo, lizard, and crocodile skin.
The metal components of the bag, like buckles, lock, and studs, areknown as hardware. They’re typically made of either gold or palladium hardware, though it should be noted that gold hardware is actually gold-plated.
Unlike other bags, which might be mass-produced on an assembly line, an expert artisan crafts each bag individually by hand. Each bag takes around 18-25 hours to make.
When a designer creates a bag that doesn’t meet Hermès’ high standards, it is burned instead of sold at an outlet. As you might imagine, this has resulted in a bit of controversy for the brand.
There are several handbags on theHermès website, with the cheapest option starting at around $3,000.
But if you’re looking for a premium Hermès Birkin or Kelly bag, you won’t find them online—at least not on the official Hermès store.
The cheapest Kelly or Birkin bag costs around $10,000, but the prices go much higher for unique leathers or limited editions. These bags are so exclusive, thecompany restricts how many you can buy per year.
The most expensive bag ever sold (by any brand) is aHermès Himalaya bag made from white crocodile and encrusted with over 10 carats of diamonds. It sold in 2017 for £293,000—around $400,000 USD.
This extreme exclusivity is part of what makes the bags so valuable. Not everyone—in fact, very few people—can get their hands on a luxury Hermès bag, even if they have the budget.
You’ll need to go to a Hermès boutique and get put on their waiting list for a bag.
As a result, there is a huge resale market for used Hermès bags. In fact, many bags increase in value once you buy them, since just buying the bag is so difficult.