Hermès Bag Names & the Stories Behind Them
Hermès bags dominate the world of luxury handbags and accessories. The names of exquisite bags such as Birkin, Kelly, Constance, and Evelyne have become as familiar to us as the monikers of our friends. But where did these Hermès bag names come from, and what do they mean?
Learning the Names of Hermès Bags
When you learn the names of Hermès bags, you’ll notice the key distinctions that set each one apart as a highly coveted fashion accessory. While a Birkin may look a lot like a Kelly to the uninitiated, collectors recognize and appreciate the unique qualities of each. The nine Hermès bag styles we cover here all have meaningful names and play a unique role in your wardrobe.
It’s fitting that the Birkin bag tops our Hermès bag name list. It certainly has the most intriguing backstory. Widely considered the “Holy Grail” of luxury handbags, the history of the Birkin bag begins with a meet-cute between actress and singer Jane Birkin and Hermès artistic director and CEO Jean-Louis Dumas. Birkin, not only a professional entertainer but also a busy mother of three, was seated next to Dumas on a flight from Paris to London in 1983. As she placed her wicker basket in the overhead compartment, its contents spilled out, prompting Dumas to recommend a leather handbag.
Birkin explained that she couldn’t find a stylish, secure bag that could carry as many things as her basket did. The two discussed what a bag would need to suit Birkin’s hectic, jet-setting lifestyle, and Dumas began sketching. One year later, in 1984, Hermès introduced the Birkin bag. The results rocked the fashion world. The Birkin is the most celebrated of all Hermès bag names and may be the most coveted bag on the planet.
The Hermès Kelly bag is the only possible rival to the Birkin’s status as the most desirable fashion accessory in history. Its story may be just as interesting as well. The Hermès bag name for this style was originally the Sac à Dépêches, or the Dispatch bag. In 1954, the costume designer for the Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief chose the bag for Grace Kelly’s character to carry. The legendary actress fell in love with the bag and kept it after the film’s release.
Grace Kelly, then Princess Grace of Monaco, was later photographed carrying her bag to hide her baby bump. The photo made the cover of Life magazine. Fashionable women worldwide soon clamored for the “Kelly bag.” Although the handbag instantly became known as the “Kelly bag”, it was not officially renamed until 1977.
The next Hermès bag name on our list is the lovely shoulder bag Constance. In 1959, Jean-Louis Dumas asked in-house designer Catherine Chaillet to create the bag. Chaillet was pregnant with her fifth child at the time and the bag was named Constance in honor of her daughter. Rumor has it that both bag and daughter made their debuts on the same day. Ironically, Chaillet never returned to work after giving birth.
The casual Evelyne is a stylish Hermès crossbody bag also with a female namesake. In 1978, Evelyne Bertrard, the head of Hermès’ riding department at that time, and her team, created a bag to be a convenient carryall for horse grooming equipment. The bag, named the “Evelyne” after Bertrard, had a simple messenger-like silhouette, with a defining feature – a perforated “H” design on the back, which allowed for aeration of the grooming tools while those were carried.
The Evelyne was sold only in Hermès equestrian department until the beginning of the 21st century, when Hermès understood that it appealed to a wider audience and it was moved to the leather goods department. Today, fashion-savvy women turn the Evelyne around, displaying the perforated “H” to the world.
The Lindy bag was first introduced to the public during the Hermès 2007 spring-summer collection. Designed by Frédéric Vidal, the bag was created as a homage to the American Street Dance, Lindy Hop. An atypical silhouette for Hermès, the Lindy was specifically designed so that the handles are perpendicular to the body of the bag enabling the wearer to keep her/his body in a natural position. This is in contrast to most handbags, whose handles are typically parallel to the body of the bag which requires the wearer to adjust the position of her/his arm to keep the bag parallel to the body. Carried by the handles, the bag folds in the middle with an exaggerated slouch. Worn over the shoulder by its detachable shoulder strap, the Lindy shows off its singular shape and style.
The Hermès Bolide bag was designed by Emile Hermès as a gift for his wife. Released in 1923, it is one of the first bags that Hermès created for non-equestrian use. Originally called “le sac pour l’auto,“ the bag’s name was changed to Bolide, which translates to “comet,” a popular nickname for sports cars. The bag was the first bag that incorporated a zipper, an innovation that Emile Hermès patented after discovering it on a cloth automobile top during a visit to Henry Ford.
While most Hermès bag names are female-inspired, the Picotin is purely equestrian inspired. Picotin is the French term for a unit of horse feed and bag resembles a horse’s feed bag, with loops to fit over the ears and a roomy bucket shape to hold the food. The original Picotin was phased out after the Picotin Lock bag was introduced in 2002, a redesign that added the brand’s signature Kelly lock and key to the already loved bucket bag.
The Hermès bag named 24/24 was launched in 2018 and was named to convey that it can be effortlessly worn around the clock.
Introduced in 2021, the Hermès bag style Geta is inspired by and named for traditional Japanese platform sandals. The prominent “H” closure on the front is mirrored on the back, forming the bag’s feet and providing the mechanism to adjust the wide canvas strap. It offers a chic, contemporary aesthetic.
Shop All Hermès Bag Names at Madison Avenue Couture
This review of Hermès bag names covers just a few of the best-known styles. The storied maison has created over eighty models of luxury handbags. And you can find many of the most coveted ones in stock, in pristine and never-worn condition, right here at Madison Avenue Couture.