Over the years Hermes has had many influential designers come and go through its ateliers, bringing with each their own unique spirit that permanently marks the House. And 2004 saw the start of a fresh era, the era of Gaultier. From his very first runway show, it was clear the already iconic French designer would saturate the century old, equestrian rooted luxury maison with whimsy. His first catwalk was filled with innovative takes on the classic Kelly closure, the Bolduc ribbon, the world-class exotics, all tilted toward riding. Unlike his predecessor Martin Margiela’s, Gaultier’s models often carried bags. One such example that captured the attention of Hermes collectors during his first show was a new clutch design inspired by the most famous top-handle bag in the world. It was called the Kelly Pochette. Put into production that same year, the Kelly Pochette quickly became a must-have it-bag. With leather versions originally retailing for around $2,500, it was a more accessible price point than a full-size Kelly, but certainly not more accessible to customers. From day one the Pochette was in high demand, and purchasing limits were strictly enforced at Hermes stores. Many of JPG’s Kelly designs have since been discontinued, the So Kelly, the Shoulder Kelly, the Kelly Flat and the Kelly Relax, but not the Kelly Pochette. Demand today is higher than ever for these adorable clutch bags, which has kept them in regular production at the Pantin Ateliers for over fifteen years.
The design is simple, a soft, Sellier constructed body with a trapezoidal shape echoing that of the full Sellier Kelly. The flat top handle slides through leather loops, and the base is flat, removing much of the hardware, making for a very light and flexible bag. The most important hardware is maintained, the iconic Kelly closure: two plaque-tipped sangles that hook over the turet turn-lock. The interior forgoes a zipper with a single slip pocket, and there is no lock, keys or clochette, making this a very non-fussy, easy to use clutch. Many people immediately appreciated the simplicity of the design, simultaneously elegant enough for evening, and practical enough for travel.
Kelly Pochettes have been produced in a number of different leathers, but never Togo or Clemence, and we have yet to see a Barenia example. Swift, Evercalf, and Epsom leather are the most common, though rare versions sometimes surface in Chevre, Box leather, and Doblis Suede. Lizard Kelly Pochettes have been produced since the design’s introduction, with early examples sporting the now discontinued gunmetal Ruthenium hardware. These, along with Ostrich examples are rare, but the most valuable versions are done in either Nilo or Porosus Crocodile or Alligator with either shiny or matte finishes. The most desirable pochettes are the limited editions, which rarely accompany Hermes’ seasonal releases. There are So Black Pochettes in Box leather and matte Alligator, and metallic Chevre Pochettes in either Gold, Silver, or Bronze. While most have either Gold or Palladium hardware, some of these clutches have rare guilloche hardware, and a handful in either Suede, Lizard, or Crocodile have 18K gold hardware with diamond studs over the rivets and turet. Only one Himalayan Kelly Pochette is known to have been made by special order, but Ombre Lizard Pochettes have been spotted in top-level collections for many years, and occasionally are still produced. In many of his shows, Gaultier presented exciting interpretations of the Pochette, which would never make it into production. Shearling and Stingray examples will forever haunt collectors' dreams.
Because Kelly Pochettes have been around since 2004, they have regularly shown up in auctions since the earliest records we have dating back to 2009. Over the following eleven years, very steady trends are apparent, and indicative of the Hermes market as a whole. Since the first Kelly Pochette sold at auction in May of 2009, a leather version which fetched approximately $2,275, over a hundred other leather examples have sold averaging just over $7,500, with the average for results over the past year coming just under $9,500. The highest price paid was $30,000 for a So Black example in December of 2016. Similar results show up for Lizard Pochettes, 37 of which have averaged over $15,500, and top out at $45,250 for an Ombre Lizard Pochette that sold in November of 2019. Only thirteen Ostrich Pochettes have sold, averaging just under $17,000, with five examples this past year averaging almost $19,000. Over seventy-five Crocodile and Alligator Pochettes have sold, averaging over $24,000, with fifteen examples this past year averaging almost $28,000. The auction record for the style at over $51,500 is for a Matte Mimosa example that sold in June of 2015 (No exotic So Black Pochettes have ever come up for auction). Suede Pochettes are the scarcest and have experienced the most dramatic increase in value over the past ten years. Only twelve have come to auction, averaging under $7,000 overall, but the four examples that have sold in the last four years have blown that number away, with all selling between $9,250 and $12,000.
The increase in value of the Kelly Pochette, which today retails for around $5,650 in leather, has not been massive, but it has been steady, averaging around 10% annually. This reliability puts the Pochette in line with other Hermes blue-chip investment level bags: The Birkin, Kelly, and Constance. The success of the Kelly Pochette has brought along with it an increased interest in other Hermes bags that feature the iconic Kelly closure. The simplicity of the Pochette’s design, however, has allowed this bag to stay in high demand for years, and will ensure its popularity for years to come.