Debunking the Hermes myth

Tuesday 28 September 2010
You've probably realized by now that I'm crazy about anything and everything to do with Hermes.  I love the fact that my bags were handmade by some of the best artisans in the world. Only the creme de la creme of leathers are used.  I dragged a girlfriend to the Hermes store over the weekend.  I've managed to convince her to move over to the orange side.  It so happened that there was a resident artisan was demonstrating how to make a Kelly bag.

We met a lovely and handsome sales associate who could not be more helpful and enthusiastic. He immediately plonked a huge leather swatch book on the counter and persuaded my girlfriend to place an order for a Birkin. Apparently, there's a new procedure for placing orders. The previous system whereby one gets on the waiting list is now defunct. We were both rooting for her to order an Etoupe togo bag but unfortunately, there were none in the store to try on. Fortunately, a customer strolled past us carrying an Etoupe Birkin 35cm. My girlfriend looked thoroughly confused and her head swivelled back and forth between the SA and I whilst we spat out words like Togo, Taurillon Clemence, Chevre Mysore, Retourne, Sellier, 30cm.

I thought it'd be best to let the poor girl get a respite from two Hermes addicts so I herded her off to watch the artisan who was demonstrating how to make a Kelly bag. As the artisan explained, it took her 18-20 hours to make a Kelly. Yes, it's actually a her. I often envision an artisan at Hermes to be a middle aged man slowly saddle stitching pieces of leather together. According to Clare, the majority are in their 30s and there are now more women than men at the atelier. She has just debunked a lot of my myths. As a requirement of their training, hey're asked to make the handle of a Kelly which is the hardest thing to do. I used to think that only the most senior artisans were allowed to make Kellys and Birkins as little hand-stitching is required for the other designs i.e. Evelyne, Bolide, Plume to name a few.

The handle of a Kelly has 4 different layers of leather and requires physical strength and skill to cut/bend/stitch into  shape. If they managed to make one perfectly, they are then asked to make the entire bag. I was told that the handle of a Kelly needs to be extra strong as it has to support the weight of the entire bag as opposed to those of a Birkin where the mass is evenly distributed between two handles.

In order to deal with crocodile skin, hands have to be kept clean a all times as moisture and dirt will affect the surface. The same amount of care is required when making a bag in Box leather. In fact, it takes an artisan almost 1-2 hours to make the strap of a Kelly. Believe it or not, it's quicker to make a strap in crocodile. No wonder the demand outstrips the supply as it literally takes such a long time to make just one bag. Unfortunately, I was unable to take photos as photography is stricted prohibited during the demonstration.


  1. that is so cool - hopefully you have convinced your friend!!

  2. Thanks! Her head's still spinning with all the different leather/color/size combos.

  3. Oh such an exiting post to read!!!!! Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Linda

  4. Thanks, Linda! I wish I was allowed to take photos though. The Iris Kelly 32 she was making is truly stunning!

  5. This is such an informative post. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Glad you've enjoyed it, q9y8. I call it the politics of Hermes :P



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