The Kelly Sellier vs. Retourne — Which One Will You Choose?
Among Hermès bag aficionados, you might expect the choice between Birkin bags and Kelly bags to generate heated debates. But the Hermès Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne debate is a tale as old as time. While each style has its die-hard fans, we believe both are wonderful additions to any wardrobe. There are several similarities when comparing the Kelly Sellier to the Kelly Retourne. Both come with detachable shoulder straps that allow for hands-free carry. Both take anywhere from 18-24+ hours to make and each is handcrafted by a single artisan.
The sharp, clean structure of the Kelly Sellier leads to this style being considered the more formal handbag of the two. Because of its craftsmanship, the Sellier costs more to produce and typically has a higher price point than the Retourne.
Now let’s dig into what distinguishes Sellier vs. Retourne Kelly.
Hermès Kelly Sellier
The Kelly Sellier style is stiff and highly structured with clean, sharp lines.
Sellier means “Saddler” in French. The name pays homage to Hermès’ origin as the premier saddler and harness-maker to the French nobility. The Hermès Kelly Sellier features seams with exposed top-stitching and finished with a resin edge coat. This imparts a geometric trapezoidal silhouette. Although the sharp edges make the Sellier style appear larger than a Kelly Retourne in the same size, the Sellier actually holds less due to its lack of flexibility. To achieve this rigid, structured appearance, Hermes uses harder, more “boardy” leathers to craft the Kelly Sellier, such as Epsom or Box.
Fun fact — it was the Kelly Sellier style that captured the heart of legendary beauty, actress, and later princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. A Life magazine photo of Princess Grace holding her Hermès Sac a Depeches bag to shield her pregnancy drove fashionable women around the world to demand “the Kelly bag.” Although known as the Kelly bag since the 1950s, Hermès officially renamed the bag the Kelly in 1977.
Hermès Kelly Retourne
The Kelly Retourne style is relaxed and slouchy with a soft silhouette.
Technically, the construction of all Kelly bags starts like a Sellier, but for Hermès Kelly Retourne bags, the artisan will turn the bag inside out. Hence, the name Retourne, which literally means “reversed.” The Kelly Retourne has smoother outside seams which are covered by leather piping along the sides instead of the resin edging of the Sellier.
The piping is similar to those on the classic Hermès Birkin, which many now call the Birkin Retourne. In fact, in recent years, the Kelly Retourne has been vying with the Birkin for popularity. Many women choose the Kelly Retourne over the Birkin Retourne due in large part to the former’s matching shoulder strap.
The supple look gives the Kelly Retourne a more relaxed and casual feel. The construction of the Retourne and the use of soft leathers, such as Togo and Clemence, lets the leather loosen on the bag’s frame. As a result, a Kelly Retourne will hold more than a Kelly Sellier of the same size. However, Kelly Retourne bags should not be overstuffed or they will sag and stretch out of shape.
Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne
You can differentiate an Hermès Kelly Sellier vs. Retourne by the sharp edges and visible stitching on the Sellier. Also, take note of the silhouette of the bag. The Kelly Sellier is much more angular and sharply geometric than the Retourne, whose lines and angles look softer and more relaxed.
The smallest size Kelly bag, the Kelly 20, is only available in the Sellier style. The other Kelly sizes – Kelly 25, Kelly 28, Kelly 32 and Kelly 35 – are available in both Sellier and Retourne styles. Sellier and Retourne Kelly bags are available in the most popular leathers and in exotics such as lizard, ostrich, crocodile and alligator. The only exception is that shiny crocodile and alligator bags only come in the Sellier style, whereas matte crocodile and alligator bags only come in the Retourne style.
Sellier and Retourne Kelly bags also are popular selections among VIPs when making their Special Order or Horseshoe Stamp (HSS) bags. The combination of two colors in epsom or chevre leather results in exceptional and rare pieces in both Sellier and Retourne Kelly bags, although bi-color HSS Sellier Kelly bags are more popular than the Retourne style. This reflects the more casual nature of the latter style.
Choosing Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne
Choosing a Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne depends on personal preference and lifestyle. The Kelly Sellier is for the aficionado who prefers a more formal, structured look at the expense of forgoing the extra space. Whereas, the Kelly Retourne is for someone who plans to pair the Kelly with more casual outfits and want the greater storage capacity
Regardless, both the Hermès Kelly Retourne and the Kelly Sellier styles are timeless classics to enjoy for many years.
Madison Avenue Couture is available to assist in selecting the Kelly bag to fit your style. Shop online or make an appointment to visit our Manhattan showroom or for a private Facetime consultation. Every one of our bags online is in stock, guaranteed authentic and available for shipping the same or next business day.