Grace Kelly, Hermès and the Sac à dépêches

The name Hermès is synonymous with luxurious, superbly crafted leather luggage and handbags. The company, originally a saddlery company, was founded in 1837. Grandson Emile added luggage to the company's repertoire in 1920. Hermes is known for not using assembly lines. Only one craftsperson may work on one handbag at a time, hand-stitching each individual piece. Due to the labor-intensive nature of Hermès production methods and the use of rare materials, sometimes including exotic skins as well as precious metals, one bag can take 18 to 24 hours to create. This is also explains the large price tags that accompany each bag. 

The Kelly bag takes about 18 hours to construct. Hermès’ leathers include those of alligator from Florida, buffalo from Pakistan, crocodile from Australia, shark from Thailand, lizard from Malaysia, and oxen, deer, calf, goat, and ostrich from all over the world. All leathers are professionally treated, dyed in an extensive range of colors, and handcrafted into bags of all sizes, small leather goods, and additional accessories. 

The bag, originally called the Sac à dépêches, was loved and carried by many.  But it was Princess Grace who brought the bag to the forefront and created high demand as she would use the bag to shield her newly, then growing pregnant belly from the paparazzi. The Sac à dépêches would soon become as famous as the iconoclastic and elegant blonde carrying it. Snapped by a photographer for Life Magazine, the bag would become in high demand and renamed the Kelly bag.

Image courtesy Life Magazine

Image courtesy Life Magazine

Image courtesy Life Magazine

To make the Kelly Bag a craftsman will work with skins that are already laid out in perfect symmetry.
The lining is constructed with Goat skins which is the first part of the bag to be sewn. From there the base of the handbag is created as the front and back are hand-sewn with waxed linen thread. A double saddle stitch is used and each thrust of the needle is carefully done.  Adjustment is made for the particular grain of the leather to work with the natural pattern. From here the craftsman works on the handle. The shaping is done by hand with utmost careful attention to detail. Sandpaper is used to smooth the layers of the stitched leather and then dyed to match the handbag. Hot wax is then applied to protect the handle from moisture.
Finally the distinctive front flap is then added to the bag body followed by the familiar hardware and 4 feet on the bottom. These metal parts are hand riveted. Finally the bag is ironed to gently smooth out the wrinkles in the calfskin. The very final step is the inclusion of the famous  "Hermes Paris" gold stamp. 
The Kelly Bag

A lesser known fact, Grace Kelly once broker her arm and used an Hermes scarf as a sling. Oh, if we could all dress our wounds so stylishly!

For more fun Grace Kelly Facts, please visit Lily Lemontree and our post over at Prep School 101 as we have coordinated some fun stuff for you!