How To Tell If Your Hermès Kelly Bag Is Real

Words by Candace Longfellow | 4.1.20

The Hermès Kelly bag is an icon in its own right. Jane may have the Birkin, but she isn’t the only style luminary associated with the storied house of Hermès. Over twenty years before that beloved bag ever hit the scene, Grace Kelly was spotted propping up her broken arm with an Hermès silk scarf fashioned into a chic sling. On the set of her 1954 film To Catch a Thief, Kelly fell in love with an Hermès bag then known as the Sac á Dépêches, and quickly commissioned six of her own. She was later snapped using one to shield her baby bump from the paparazzi, prompting Hermès to rename the bag the Kelly.

Though similar to the Birkin in many ways, the Kelly’s more compact interior, sophisticated lines and single top handle make it the ultimate ladylike bag. Many brands, including Chanel and Gucci, have made bags in similar silhouettes and even called them the Kelly Bag, but Hermès’ Kelly is the original. It contains over 2,600 stitches and takes at least 20 hours to construct, making it one of the most luxurious bags ever made. Like the Birkin, its scarcity has spawned legions of imposters, but the trained eye can always spot the difference. “Hermès as a brand is very heritage,” explains Senior Manager of Authentication & Brand Compliance Kevin Ngo. “They originated by creating equestrian goods, such as saddles, which is how they developed a lot of their methodologies, for example their stitching methods, which separates them from every other brand.” So how can experts like him tell real from faux? “With the Kelly bag, we would examine our five pillars of authentication: factory production codes, hardware, textiles and materials, fonts and typography, as well as overall construction of the bag,” says Ngo. Keep reading for more of his tips for spotting the real thing.

 

 

Hermès Kelly Bag Construction

Hermès is known for hand-producing each and every one of their bags to this day. I personally love Hermès bags due to their heritage, but they also feel a little bit imperfect because they all are hand-crafted, so I love seeing the variations in the stitching detailing; I love seeing the saddle stitching method — everything comes at a slant as opposed to something that’s machine-stitched and very, very uniform. That’s another thing about an Hermès Kelly bag — it should be entirely symmetrical. If there’s a certain stitching method on one side and it’s doubled up at the ends there, it should reflect on the opposite side as well. A bag with handmade quality does not make my job more difficult, because there is still is a level of perfection that hand stitching has to meet.

 

 

The handle of the Hermès Kelly bag is incredibly difficult to make. It uses six pieces of leather, and takes three and a half hours to construct. A novice artisan will generally attempt 10 handles before they make one that meets Hermès’ exacting standards. The handle has a flat underside and curved topside, and is extremely rigid and well-constructed. Bags made before 2001 have simple D-rings, but in 2001 and after, Hermès started to use a custom double D-ring, basically a split D-ring, where one side attaches to the handle, and the other is a free ring to attach a shoulder strap. Every Hermès Kelly bag comes with a shoulder strap, which should have an embossed brand stamp. More current clasps on the straps will be engraved with a very clean brand stamp.

 

 

The sangles, or straps, secure the bag closed and have metal plaques on either end. The right-side plaque will have “Hermès – Paris” engraved on it. Vintage styles will have “Paris” below the brand name rather than beside it. On an Hermès Kelly bag, we lift back the sangle and find four rivets, or four notches, holding the placards in place. Hermès uses a method called pearling to get those notches inside there. Red flags to look for would be if it appears like a brad that has maybe been glued to the surface, or just poorly attached to the surface. The spindle should be well-secured and have even tension going all the way around. When turning, it should not feel too tight or too loose, nor should it have a gritty feeling.

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Hermès Kelly Bag Fonts & Production Codes

A blind stamp should be located on the backside of the right sangle, under the side that is engraved “Hermès – Paris.” Until 2015, Hermès used letters in alphabetical order surrounded by a shape to date their items. For example, Square Q is 2013, Square R is 2014. Allegedly, because so many shoppers became familiar with this system, by the time the next season rolled around, the company would have a difficult time selling bags from the previous year since customers wanted the newest bags. They now use a secret proprietary code using only a single letter with no shape and no obvious order to the sequence, and have moved the blind stamps to the interior of the bags.

 

 

Most Hermès Kelly bags are foil stamped at the exterior of the bag. The heat stamp is located underneath the front flap and will read, “HERMÈS PARIS MADE IN FRANCE,” though vintage bags made before 1954 may vary. It will be stamped in either silver or gold, but some will have a colorless debossed stamp. As a trained authenticator I examine certain letters; I like to isolate letters that typically have slope to them, such as the “S.” There are also special symbols to indicate exotic skins and special orders.

 

Hermès Kelly Bag Hardware

If an Hermès Kelly bag utilizes gold hardware, we know that the gold hardware should be gold-plated. At The RealReal we have XRF machines, which can detect the exact percentages of alloys within each metal. A lock and key accompany every Hermès Kelly bag, and these should have the same hardware finish as the bag’s hardware, which is either gold-plated or palladium-plated. The keys and locks are both debossed with matching numerical codes. The numbers should be very clean. Sometimes you will see poorly engraved numbers, which is a sign of inauthenticity. 

 

 

On an Hermès Kelly bag, the zipper pull will always lie parallel to the teeth and should not dangle vertically into the pocket. The tab will be a folded piece of leather, cut into a diamond shape in the same material and color as the bag. It should also be marked “Hermès.” Starting in the early 2000s, Hermès began using an H-shaped zipper stop instead of the standard square shape you might see on a basic zipper.

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