Timeless yet timely, an Hermès bag transcends being a mere status symbol that gradually fades after a season or two. The first métier the Parisian house diversified into after it was founded in 1837 was leather goods and what a journey it has been for its leather creations almost two centuries later.
Vibrant yet understated and unpretentious, we now know that Hermès bags come without unnecessary fanfare and flourish. The attention to their refinement of line and form make these sac objects crafted by hand sheer architectural statements by their very nature, imbued with a spirit from the most noble and precious of skins. Furthermore, their beauty becomes even more enhanced with an aged patina acquired over the years.
Always driven to adapt to the needs of men and women living in an evolving world, Hermès has set the tone right from the outset with this trio of bags: the Haut à courroies, Bolide and Kelly bags. Today, the legacy of the Maison has expanded to include many others—tied together by a common philosophy with leather at the heart—making them the ultimate BFF (Bag Friend Forever) through every season.
Besides the famed Birkin (which needs no introduction), here are the other icons from the Hermès treasure trove of leather bags:
What is now a timeless classic, the archetypal Kelly, when it was designed in the ’30s by Robert Dumas, had an aesthetic that was considered radical. The purity of its trapezium shape—featuring two triangular gussets, a rounded handle, a flap closed with two side straps and a swivel clasp— was the very essence of Hermès leather goods. Immaculate with a clean, geometric silhouette, what catapulted the Kelly into acclaim in the ’50s was the publicity from Hollywood star-turned-princess Grace Kelly, who was photographed carrying it at numerous high-profile events.
The Kelly was also a harbinger of its era—the chic structured bag boasted generous proportions for its generation, making it resonant and relevant in signalling the signs of the times just as women had achieved greater independence. Since then, its evolution into the sportier realm has been the result of more supple versions via the Kellyado, Kellydole, Kellylakis, Kelly picnic, Kellygraphie and Kelly Danse that have helped to refine a stylistic language through this vast expressiveness.
This quintessential squarish shoulder bag is another archetype at the house of Hermès. Created in 1967, it was named after the daughter of its designer and epitomised the spirit of freedom and liberation of the ’60s. Innovative yet simple and graceful, the Constance’s modern sensibility as an architectural gem derives much from its sense of harmony and elegance in motion.
It is identified by a distinctive H clasp—rendered prolifically in silver or gold, lacquer, enamel or inlaid with stones—as well as a double gusset and saddlery construction with burnished raw edges. Diversity favours the Constance, which has been reinterpreted in a variety of sizes, materials and hues. Its versatile shoulder strap allows the perennially fashionable bag to be worn long or short in a way that always complements its trademark curved flap.
Birthed in 1923, this bag sits proudly among the three founding members of the Hermès leather bag club. The backstory of its design inspiration in the form of a recognisable and innovative rounded shape is attributed to Émile Hermès and the discovery he made of a car hood in Canada.
In reference to this, he created the “sac pour auto” (“bag for motor car”) which was meant to fit comfortably into the rounded car boot of the time. Pure and modern in shape, the Bolide gives the impression that the bag has been sculpted from leather while its equestrian-inspired handles pay tribute to the expertise of Hermès in making rolled bridles. In today’s context, the Bolide is perfect for both busy working days or relaxing weekends as it straddles the divide between a handbag and travel bag, courtesy of its multiple versions of sizes.
Starting out with function strictly in mind, the Évelyn has evolved into one of the maison’s stalwarts— delightfully casual and easy to wear. The bag is easily recognised by the perforated H stamped in an oval shape that recalls a horse’s hoof. Which is apt given that it was created in 1978 by the then Director of the Equestrian métier whose name was used to christen the bag.
The design concept was to devise a functional bag with perforations for riders to transport grooming equipment for horses and that allowed the damp accessories placed within the saddlebag to dry. Ultra-sporty in nature, this unisex everyday bag has retained its webbing shoulder strap with a refresh by way of saddlery construction with a “diamond H” pattern embossed in the leather that is inspired by a horse blanket crest motif from a 1926 Hermès catalogue.
It may not be appropriate to describe an Hermès bag as adorable but this petite-sized sac is like the “baby” of the family—charming, supple and practical. Created in 2002 and inspired by the equestrian world, this diminutive duffel is to be carried like a basket in the crook of the arm. Named after the oats fed to horses, this light and youthful-looking bag comes unlined and boasts understated handles with a strap closure, finished with a discreet padlock.
A paragon of the Hermès tradition of innovation, Herbag was created in 1998, informed by the iconic Kelly and transformed into a light and functional version. A raw leather flap helms lightweight coloured canvas that is slightly rounded in form and is affixed to it around a metal frame rather than being stitched.
The sporty bag bears distinctive straps, a hanging key holder and a central saddle nail clasp. An amazing quality is its constantly evolving expressions, be it horizontal, vertical or trapezoidal in iterations ranging from a weekend, cabin or backpack size; supple or structured; monochrome or printed. A true chameleon whose impermanence is what drives it as a sac that is irreverent to the hilt.