Handbags & Accessories

Evolution of the Hermès Mini Kelly Bag

By Lindsey Weiss
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Hermès Mini Kelly 20
Hermès Mini Kelly 20

Design History of Hermès Mini Kelly

While the Hermès Kelly bag is a design that has been around in one form or another for over a century, the specific history of how the design has changed over time is something collectors are left to figure out for themselves. Hermès doesn’t detail its history publicly as some brands do, but rather lets the Hermès lovers of the world search for clues to add to the history of their bags. Here we’re using past auction data to parse out the design history of Mini Kelly bags.

Hermès Kelly Sellier 25 Vert Emeraude Crocodile Gold Hardware

The Hermès Kelly 25

The Hermès Kelly 25 has been around since at least the early 1960’s. Examples from this period are rare and sport full-sized Plaque hardware rather than the mini version we see on 25 and 20 Kelly bags today. Interestingly Kelly 20 bags have been found dating from earlier than Kelly 25 bags, though these feature miniaturized hardware from their beginning. While a lock, key and clochette have always been included to secure the Kelly 25 bags, a shoulder strap was not introduced for the style until more recently. Many accounts place the introduction of the Kelly strap around that of the Hermès Birkin bag: 1984-1986. At this time Hermès used a pinch-clasp on their straps, which was phased out for the newly-designed round clips around 1989-1990. Palladium hardware was first used on Kelly bags in 1996 and a second loop was added to the handle-attachments around 2000 for easier strap use. Since the year 2000, virtually no changes have been made to the Kelly bag design, save for the redesigning of the Mini Kelly 20.

The Hermès Mini Kelly 20

Hermès Kelly 20 Timeline

The earliest known Hermès Kelly 20 dates from 1957 and was produced with a mid-length shoulder strap. The iconic round top-handle that has led collectors to dub it a bracelet handle wasn’t seen until 1980. It would be another ten years before Hermes would introduce the Mini Kelly 20 in Retourne construction, a model that is exceedingly rare today. Seven years after its discontinuation (The last known Kelly 20 bag dates from 2009, though examples after 2004 are extremely rare), Hermes would re-design the Kelly 20 and reintroduce it to the world as the Mini 20 Kelly II. This version saw the top-handle and depth reduced. Hermès Kelly 20 bags never came with locks, keys or clochettes, though shoulder straps have been seen on the models since their inception. It is exceedingly rare to find vintage Kelly 20 bags with double-loop hardware, as they were not included in this change at the turn of the century.


Hermès Mini Kelly 20 Bags

The Hermès Kelly 15

Left: Vintage Lizard Micro Kelly 15, Right: Lizard Micro Candy Kelly 15 Left: Hermès Vintage Lizard Micro Kelly 15, Right: Hermès Lizard Micro Candy Kelly 15

Hermès also produced two runs of rare micro 15cm Kelly bags. The first of these was from 1984-1985 and then again from 1991-1992. These Kelly bags were made primarily in Courchevel, Box, Lizard and Crocodile, and feature an extra thin strap and extra small hardware. In 2011 Hermès introduced a new design for the 15cm Micro Kelly, this one in conjunction with Christophe Lemaire’s Candy Collection. Found primarily in Swift or Epsom leather, these were also produced in Lizard. These Hermès Micro Kelly bags were accompanied by the only 15cm Hermès Birkins ever produced, also for the Candy Collection.


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