Ghillies Gone Wild - Rediscovering the Grand Marriage Collection
Original published on BagWorld
The Ghillies collection, introduced in 2012, was one of Hermes’ most prolific Limited Editions, with the final versions leaving their workshops in 2017. Inspired by the brogued details on a Scottish Ghillie shoe, this collection added punched leather corners to the iconic Birkin and Kelly bags. While the intention was to align these designs with the elegance and sophistication of a men’s dress shoe, the effect on many viewers was that of an added western flair, reminiscent of the curving lines around the shoulders of a western shirt, or the leatherwork of an elaborate cowboy boot.
In the second year of the Ghillies’ production, Hermes released the first versions of the Grand Marriage; an interpretation of the Ghillies design using three exotic materials: matte alligator, ostrich and shiny lizard. Produced in 30cm and 35cm Birkins as well as 32cm and 35cm Kellys, the first two colorways were more neutral: A tan version featuring matte Poussiere alligator, Tabac Camel ostrich and Sesame lizard, and a brown version with Ficelle Lizard and Marron Fonce ostrich around a Gris Elephant alligator body.
In 2014 Hermes released their second and final pair of Grand Marriage colorways; a striking red version done in all Sanguine, highlighting how the same color can appear so different when dyed to different materials, and a highly contrasted version with a matte Beton alligator body framed by Alezan ostrich and Ficelle lizard. All of these were topped with Permabrass hardware and featured the charming detail of a little leather tassel on the clochette and interior zipper pull, which is unique to bags in the Ghillies collection.
While other exotic versions of Ghillies Birkins and Kellys were produced, including examples with matte alligator central panels framed by Swift leather, ones with both matte and shiny porosus crocodile, and versions that combine three colors of ostrich, no other Hermes bag has combined three different exotics, though there are scant instances where two have been brought together. In 1989 Hermes celebrated the bicentennial of the French Revolution with a special collection of Kellys bags featuring the colors of the French flag in Box leather: Rouge Vif, Blue Saphir and White. The rarest bag of this collection, though, combines Blue Marine Box leather with White ostrich and shiny Rouge H porosus crocodile. This is an ultimate collector’s piece that is almost never seen on the market.
Another example of a Hermes bag that combined two exotics was a Special Order HAC 40 from 2010 featuring a Fjord body, matte Nilo crocodile flap and handles, and Ostrich Sangles and gussets. This piece was cataloged as unique when sold by Artcurial in 2014 for $33,670. I have seen examples of other special order bags that combine multiple exotics, though these are very rarely found on the market and nearly never come to auction.
Recently Hermes has introduced another Birkin that combines a body of ostrich with a shiny alligator flap and handles. Part of the Touch collection, these bags have only been seen as 30cm Birkins and only in a few colors including Violine, Miel, Saffran and Black.
Only 18 Grand Marriage Birkins and Kellys have ever sold at auction, making them one of the rarest Limited Editions on the market. Results have been relatively stable over the years, with the highest results reliably going to 30cm Birkins in the Beton colorway. Since their auction debut, these bags have averaged just over $60,000, with the record set by Christie’s at nearly $105,000, and the nadir held also by Christie’s at just over $29,000 for a Gris Elephant Kelly 32.
Hermes’ Grand Mariage collection represents a pinnacle of luxury and exclusivity in the world of collectible bags. Merging Scottish-inspired and western-vibing design elements with exotic materials, these bags have not only demonstrated Hermes' commitment to craftsmanship and innovation but have also become coveted collector's items. The rarity and unique combinations of materials used in the Grand Marriage series have ensured a steady demand and above-average value in the auction market. With only a limited number ever produced, these bags have transcended beyond mere Birkins and Kellys to become symbols of status and fine artistry, embodying the essence of Hermes' dedication to creating timeless and elegant pieces, while also pushing the boundaries of practical design. The auction results for these bags underscore their enduring allure and investment potential, making them a highlight in the wonderful world of Hermes lovers.