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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

What’s your dream bag? The iconic design of Birkin and Kelly comes to my mind. It features a simple, yet elegant, design with clean lines and a distinctive lock and key closure. Hermès makes bags in France with premium materials such as calfskin, alligator, and ostrich skin.  Each bag is beautifully made entirely by hand, so not even one stitch is the same. The bags are often produced in limited quantities. The artisans are trained for years to make these bags. These are pieces of artwork. 

The foundation of the House of Hermès dates back to 1837 when Thierry Hermès opened a small harness workshop in Paris, France. They originally specialized in crafting high-quality equestrian equipment, such as saddles, bridles, and riding boots. In the late 19th century, Hermès expanded its offerings to include leather goods and accessories including wallets, belts, and bags. The brand started getting recognized for its craftsmanship, use of rare materials, and dedication to quality.

The Birkin is a spacious, yet sophisticated, bag perfect for everyday use. It was introduced in 1984 and was named after the famous British and French actress and singer Jane Birkin. The story goes that Jane Birkin happened to be seated next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive of Hermès on a flight from Paris to London. Jane was known for carrying a basket wherever she went to fit everything she had on hand. The lid came off and things in the basket fell out when she tried to fit it into the overhead bin. She complained it was impossible to find a spacious bag she liked. They spent the flight sketching the ideal handbag design. After Hermès produced the bag, Dumas offered to name it after her. The pocket is made functional and the back seals prevent things from falling out.

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The Kelly, originally known as the “Sac à dépêches,” is a spacious travel bag created in the 1930s. The simple and flat design resembles the envelope. It’s a sharp contrast to the dominant purses of the time. When a costume designer, Edith Head, went on a shopping session with Grace Kelly, an American actress, from the film To Catch a Thief in the Hermès boutique, Kelly immediately fell in love with the bag. A film director, Alfred Hitchcock allowed Head to purchase Hermès accessories for the movie starring Grace Kelly. She was given the bag and loved it so much. Her passion for the bag was so strong that she wore it at the most important events of her life. When she announced her engagement to Rainier III, Prince of Mónaco, it became widely popular. Especially in1956 when Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco was photographed carrying one to shield her baby bump from the paparazzi. After this iconic moment, the bag was renamed the “Kelly” in her honor.

The Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags are not just fashion accessories; they’re pieces of art and history.