Anatomy of an Artwork: A Style Icon

Anatomy of an Artwork: A Style Icon

The Mini Kelly reworked for today’s dispatch bag devotees
The Mini Kelly reworked for today’s dispatch bag devotees

I n 1956, Hollywood star-turned-royalty Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, was photographed in a chic coat and dress holding an Hermès’ Sac à Dépêches (French for dispatch bag) in front of her. She wanted to hide her pregnancy from the paparazzi.

The image went around the world after it was covered in Life magazine, leading to record sales of the bag. From then on it was colloquially referred to as the Kelly and was officially renamed in her honour in 1977.
A smaller version of the bag, the Mini Kelly, was manufactured from the 1980s and ranged in size from 20cm to a micro 15cm. The enfant terrible of French fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, stopped its production when he joined Hermès in the mid-2000s in favour of larger handbags.

Hermès reintroduced the bag in 2016. The Mini Kelly II has some small design changes: the bag always came with a detachable shoulder strap, but the newer version has a slimmer handle and a thinner shape to improve its wearability as a cross-body bag.

The limited edition Bleu Indigo, Noir Epsom Casaque Mini Kelly II is on offer in the Handbags and Accessories sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this April and would make an excellent fit in any collection.

1 Epsom leather

The Mini Kelly II is made from Epsom leather, an embossed, grained calf’s leather which is long-lasting and scratch resistant.

2 Tricolour design

The rare tricolour design references a two-toned jockey’s silk (or casaque in French) on the outside of the bag with a red leather lining inside.

3 Gold-plated clasp

The gold clasp and hardware on Hermès bags are certified gold-plated and have a small hallmark engraved on the clasp.

4 Sellier stitching

This model uses point sellier stitching, a saddle stitch that comes from the brand’s equestrian beginnings, which prevents the bag from falling apart.

5 Lamb leather interior

The Mini Kelly II is lined with lamb’s leather to match Hermès women’s gloves: this prevents either item from scratching and scuffing when inside the bag.

Bleu Indigo, Noir Epsom Casaque Mini Kelly II,
Gold Hardware, 2021
Estimate HK$160,000-200,000
Handbags and Accessories, Hong Kong, April

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