History of the Birkin Bag: Established in 1837, Hermès is a French luxury fashion house that offers different goods, including leather goods, accessories, jewelry, and home furnishings. But amongst all their distinguished original creations, two stand out.
Our article about the History of the Birkin Bag will dig deeper into the anatomy of this one of the most beloved and prized bags in the fashion world.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the history the Birkin, their signature style, and who they work for to help you decide if one of them is actually the right bag for you.
So, let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Overview of The History of the Birkin Bag
Buying a luxury bag isn’t only about making a fashion statement but also an investment, as you might pay a six-figure amount for some models.
When choosing an Hermès handbag, you need to consider what you’re buying it for; is it a bag you’ll wear daily or only during special meetings?
There are lots of details that you need to think about regarding the color, texture, and leather before you pick the bag style that perfectly fits yours.
Hermès design house hires only the most skilled leather workers, as all their luxury goods are handmade and thoroughly inspected before they’re sold to their prestigious customers.
According to fashion experts, it takes between 15 and 20 hours to handcraft a Birkin, which explains why the bags are so expensive.
Birkin bags highlight impressive craftsmanship, as each one is handmade with a great emphasis on detail and quality. This is why you can’t just walk into a store and make a purchase or order a bag online. Instead, you have to be on a special VIP list that allows you to gain access to these iconic bags.
As a matter of fact, there used to be a waiting list if you wanted to get an Hermès bag, and one might have had to wait for up to six years. Even when the wait was over, there was no guarantee that you would get the desired bag in the color you ordered. Still, people believed that the quality of the products justified the wait.
What’s the Difference Between a Kelly and a Birkin?
To an untrained eye, there might not be many differences between both models. But there are several points that can help you differentiate a Kelly from a Birkin, making each model unique and suitable for a specific user.
The History of the Birkin Bag and the Kelly Bag
Both bags were inspired by elegant beautiful women.
As you might have imagined, the Kelly bag is related to the iconic Grace Kelly, who appeared in a successful movie called To Catch a Thief.
The costume designer handpicked several accessories for the actress, and one of them was the Sac à Dépêches. It was so practical that Kelly decided to keep it after the shooting was over.
When Kelly married the Prince of Monaco, she was under the spotlight, still in love with her bag.
She wore the bag to several events and even used it to hide her growing belly when she became pregnant. Women visited Hermès stores asking for the same bag the American beauty wore when she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine.
The story of the Birkin is actually more fun. It dates back to the early 1980s when Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO and artistic director of Hermès, met English-French actress, singer, and model Jane Birkin on a plane. Birkin was carrying her stuff in a wicker basket, but everything spilled out of it when she was trying to put it in the overhead compartment.
The fashion expert was inspired by Birkin’s quest for a fashionable everyday bag that he decided to give her what she, and most women, wanted. He drew the sketch of the Birkin on an airplane sickness bag, highlighting its minimalist lines and laid-back look that would suit a modern mother or businesswoman. A year later, the first Birkin was produced.
Although both bags look a lot alike with their trapezoidal shape, the Kelly has more crisp lines and sharp edges, while the Birkin is a little curved on the top. In addition, the Birkin is wider and more square-shaped, while the Kelly is longer. Therefore, if two bags are of the same size, the Birkin is going to have a slightly bigger storage capacity.
However, the Kelly bag comes in two styles. The Sellier style has exterior stitching and is more structured and rigid. The Retourne style has interior stitching and softer angles. According to the name, it’s like the artisan will turn the bag inside out, which makes it a reversed version of the Sellier. It feels less formal because of the slouchier look.
Hermès offers its famous Kelly and Birkin bags in a variety of sizes to cater to the needs of all its customers. The size is indicated by numbers that refer to the length of the bag in centimeters. So, a Kelly 25 is a Kelly bag whose base measures 25 centimeters in length.
Kelly bags come in sizes that range from the Kelly 15 to Kelly 50. Yet, smaller sizes are only available in the Sellier style, and the Kelly 15 is a limited edition version. The most popular sizes are the Kelly 25 and Kelly 28, which fit most essentials and are more suitable for regular use.
Birkin bags also come in several different sizes, Birkin 25 up to Birkin 40. However, many users and fashion experts consider the Birkin 30 to be the most suitable size for everyday use. Some special edition creations, like the Birkin 15 and 20, are extremely rare.
Looking at the details of the Kelly and the Birkin can help you tell the two apart.
The most easily noticed detail is the handle, which is a noticeable difference between the two models.
While both bags have rolled leather handles, the Birkin has two handles because it’s considered a tote bag. The Kelly should be carried closed as it has one handle. The handles are short, so they can’t be worn over the shoulder. However, some Kellys come with an optional shoulder strap, but it’s not adjustable.
The other difference can be noticed on the front flap of the bags. The Birkin has a top flap with a lock and two straps that run across it. The Kelly has a straight flap that makes it a little bit more challenging to access.
Most people tuck the front flap inside the Birkin bag and leave it open, as the two handles keep it secured. Once you separate the handles, you’ll gain access to the bag without having to unlock it every time. This adds to the practicability of the bag as it’s used for everyday wear.
Others choose to slide the flap over the handles or secure it with the toggle lock for more security. Yet, most people don’t prefer to use the lock because it’s not practical and can rub against the flap, reducing its value.
Things are different for the Kelly, which should always have the flap securely closed to avoid spilling your stuff. However, some people prefer to keep the sangles under the flap for easier access.
Hermès Kelly vs. Birkin: Which One is Right For You?
To decide on which bag to invest in, you need to ask yourself a few questions about your lifestyle, what you want the bag for, and how often you expect to wear it. Of course, both bags can have their special place in your wardrobe, but if you have to choose one, you need to think a little bit.
Most people would first go for a Birkin simply because it’s more recognizable. People see you carrying a Birkin and immediately associate you with the elegance that an Hermès bag represents. It’s also more versatile and spacious than a Kelly.
But with more younger and edgier people considering this luxurious brand, Kelly is definitely becoming more popular. It comes with a shoulder strap that the Birkin lacks, and the crisp lines make it look more modern.
So, if all other features and details are more or less the same, you can get a Birkin if you’re looking for a relaxed everyday bag. The Retourne Kelly is another option to consider if you like the slouchy look of the Birkin but prefer a shoulder strap.
If you’re looking for a formal bag for meetings and upscale events, then you should consider getting a Sellier Kelly. You can also consider getting the Sellier Birkin. This is a recent crossover that combines the polished look of a Sellier Kelly with the accessible double handles of the Birkin.
Is Birkin More Expensive than Kelly?
The prices of Birkin and Kelly bags differ according to several factors, including the year the bag was produced, the type of leather, accessories used, and even the color.
Customized bags can have gold hardware with diamond studs, which add to the price tag.
However, Birkin bags are generally more expensive than Kelly bags of the same size when they’re first bought.
Nevertheless, in the secondary market, the prices vary. Kelly bags can be more expensive than Birkin bags, as many consider them to be formal and elegant. They also have optional shoulder straps, making them more appealing.
Is Kelly Bag Better than Birkin?
To answer this question, you need to be clear on why you want to buy an Hermès bag in the first place.
Both bags are exceptionally elegant and well-made, but the Kelly is more suitable for evenings out and formal events.
The structured look of the Kelly makes it more suitable for women who like a sophisticated look. It might suit you if you’re a businesswoman, lawyer, or another professional who attends a lot of meetings.
The Birkin, on the other hand, is a refined tote bag. It’s suitable for everyday wear and can be worn in more styles, so it will work for you if you want something more casual and flexible.
Is Hermès Kelly Rare?
Hermès Kelly bags aren’t available to buy from stores or online, just like Birkins. So in this sense, both bags can be considered rare.
However, Kelly bags tend to be in shorter supply, probably because they’re suitable for a more specific attire and style.
The Diamond limited edition collection isn’t only one of the rarest collections of the Kelly bag but also the most expensive. The Kelly 15 is exceptionally rare and also one of the most desired styles.
Is Kelly or Birkin More Popular?
Both Kelly and Birkin bags are popular with fashionable and elegant women, celebrities, and even royalty and heads of state. Since they’re considered exclusive, a lot of people would love to get one or both of them to belong to a stylish and distinguished group.
Yet, Birkin bags are slightly more popular, probably because they’re more versatile. A Birkin will look equally elegant with your favorite denim or a formal black dress for a business meeting.
The Kelly is still popular but highly recommended for a formal look.
Which Hermès bag is Most Popular?
It’s probably the Birkin, especially the Birkin 25.
This is a versatile bag that can beautifully transition from day to night, and it caters to the needs of a modern woman.
It’s an excellent bag for a busy mother, aspiring professional, or a renowned career woman, and it pairs beautifully with several fashion styles.
The Birkin is a practical everyday bag with an elegant twist that can be what you need to elevate an ordinary outfit.
Is Hermès Kelly Cheaper than Birkin?
This depends on the size and type of Kelly you’re buying.
For example, some Kelly bags are made of very rare leather, and some have diamond-accentuated accessories. It will definitely cost more if you’re looking for such a bag.
The Kelly collection has more limited-edition models, like the Mini Kelly. This will cost more because it’s hard to find. Some colors are also produced for special occasions, and these are typically more expensive.
What Should Be Your First Hermès Bag?
If you’re willing to join the Hermès family, you should consider getting a Birkin or Kelly bag to get you started.
Both are elegant bags and can be worn in multiple ways to give you an edge and a sophisticated look.
You can also try something more practical and buy the Constance. This luxurious creation from Hermès was loved by the Former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. It comes with a shoulder strap that makes it practical to carry around.
Why is Hermès Kelly So Popular?
Initially known as the Sac à Dépêches, the Kelly was actually first produced in 1935.
It became quite popular when the actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly made it her favorite bag and carried it around.
Back in the 1950s, Grace Kelly was living the dream of every ordinary girl. She was a small-town girl who met a princess and married him, and her bag was there to prove that dreams could come true. The bag became quite popular and was renamed after the iconic beauty.
Hermès is a name associated with elegance and style. And for almost 200 years, this luxury fashion house has been creating exclusive goods that cater to the needs of fashion lovers.
The Kelly and Birkin bags are among the most prized luxury handbags and have been this way for several decades. While both are incredibly chic, there are some key differences that set them apart.
Ideally, you’d want to have both of them in your wardrobe. But if you have to choose, the Kelly will work for you if you want a polished formal look, while the Birkin can be a practical yet elegant everyday bag.
*Disclosure: We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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