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The History of the Handbag

Have you ever wondered how the handbag came about? Like so many of those objects that we see or handle every day it’s something that we take for granted. Put your things in, pick it up, and off you go without a second thought. This fascinating article from the Women’s Museum of California explains the origins of this now essential wardrobe item.



Bags are not a new invention, as long as humans have had items to carry, we have created bags in which to carry them. As early as 38,000 BCE, hunter-gatherer, humans were using bundles and pouches made from fibers to store and transport food and tools. The drawstring purse was worn dangling from a belt by both men and women from at least the time of Ancient Rome to the Renaissance and beyond. The woman’s handbag as we know it, however, is a much more recent development in the long, humble history of the bag.

The Birth of the Handbag
Prior to the invention of the handbag, women carried necessities in pockets. But, unlike men’s pockets, which were part of a man’s garment, a woman’s pockets were an entirely separate garment, worn tied around the waist under her skirts. The large volume of women’s skirts made it easy to hide the bulk of pockets. This changed in the last decade of the eighteenth century, however, as high-waisted gowns gained popularity.

Because of the slimmer silhouette of the new style gowns, it became a grave fashion faux pas to wear bulky pockets beneath one’s gown. Pocket-lines were the panty-lines of the 1790s and no fashion-forward woman would be caught sporting them. With the death of women’s pockets, came the birth of the women’s bag.

The precursor to the modern handbag was the reticule or the indispensable, as it was sometimes called. The reticule was a small bag, only large enough to carry rouge, powder, a fan, perfume, and a few visiting cards, but women quickly took to carrying them whenever they went out. Not everyone viewed the indispensable as quite so indispensable, however.

The Argument Against the Handbag
The first handbags were essentially women’s pockets with handles attached to them, but women’s pockets, because they were worn under a woman’s skirts and close to her skin, were considered undergarments. So, when bags for women first became popular, many viewed them as vulgar or risque. As Caroline Cox notes in Bags: An Illustrated History:

These early handbags were also daring, one of the first examples of underwear as outerwear—and thus for many a rather absurd affectation. The idea of a woman parading her personal belongings in a visible pocket was an act akin to lifting up her skirts and publicly revealing her underwear.

Aside from the scandalousness of parading one’s undergarments about for everyone to see, some women viewed handbags as a poor alternative to pockets.

Early American feminists, in particular, fought the loss of pockets for women. They believed handbags would never be as practical as pockets and advocated for functional pockets built into women’s garments like pockets were for men. For these women, pockets for men and handbags for women became symbolic of the inequality between the sexes and the struggle for women’s equal rights, much in the way later feminists would view the bra.

Whether one was in favor of or set against the handbag for women, in the absence of functioning pockets, a functional bag would quickly become an inescapable component of a woman’s daily life. Although it would go through many changes over the years, its size, shape, or decoration shifting with each new decade’s sensibilities, by the late-nineteenth century the handbag was here to stay.

The Changing Form and Function of the Handbag
With the rise of the department store as a respectable location for women to meet outside of their homes, it became possible for them to stay away from home for much longer than they could previously. With this newfound freedom came the need to carry more than what would fit in an impractically small reticule.

At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, much more functional bags began to replace the reticule. Made by luggage creators like Louis Vuitton, these utilitarian bags, the first actually to be called “hand-bags,” were essentially miniature suitcases. They featured sturdy handles, multiple internal compartments, and a snap closure. These changes in the bag itself also marked a change in the idea of a woman’s handbag- it became something entirely her own. As noted by Anna Johnson in Handbags: The Power of the Purse:

Unlike a flimsy mesh reticule or a decorative coin purse sealed by a string, this bag snapped shut, and for the first time, women could carry their things with some degree of privacy. Men, who had long carried a lady’s fan or her money, were supplanted by increasingly practical, brilliantly structured bags, and they have been mystified and excluded by the handbag ever since.

In the post-World War I era, a woman’s role in society was rapidly changing, as women won liberties previously denied to them, including the right to vote. As the decade turned and they strode boldly into the Roaring Twenties and then the future beyond, greater changes were on the horizon for women and for the bags they carried along with them.


The Handbag as a Reflection of the Times
As the years progressed and handbags became further entrenched in women’s daily lives, they became a barometer for the times, adroitly reflecting the sensibilities of the women who sported them and the culture in which those women lived.

In times of prosperousness and excess, women sported over-the-top bags. Jewelers in the 1930s created minaudières, small boxes carried like a clutch, which was crafted from luxurious materials, such as silver and gold. In the seventies, women carried bags made of shiny metals, made to reflect the bright lights on the disco dance floor. The conspicuous wealth and consumer culture of the 1980s produced large, flashy, highly-decorated status bags. The handbag, in these times, served as a status symbol, with the richest women carrying the most expensive bags.

In the 1940s, women’s bags were simple and functional, reflecting the more sober sensibilities and limited resources of wartime. Shoulder bags, styled after the military satchels men carried on the war front, were worn slung over the shoulder or across the body as women walked or cycled to and from their jobs in support of the war effort. Later, this same style of bag would be reclaimed by women in the sixties as a down-to-earth counterpoint to the popular plastics of the space age. The priorities of the age determined the priorities of the handbag, including whether form came before function or vice-versa.

In decades when women were breaking through barriers and boldly challenging social mores, they carried bags that reflected this. The brazen flapper of the 1920s carried a sleek, color-coordinated clutch with her she danced, drank, smoked, cut her hair short, walked the streets without a chaperone, and unashamedly wore makeup and pants. The nonconformist, sexually liberated hippies of the 1960s sported craftwork bags made of natural materials and personalized them with patches and artwork. Daring or dissident bags like these allowed women an additional way to express themselves during times of social change or upheaval.

As the scientists developed daring new synthetic materials, these materials were also used to create modern handbags. When plastics began to be mass-produced in the 1950s, women carried handbags made of transparent lucite, a type of hard plastic. Though this new plastic was exciting, lucite bags could be dangerous: they were known to melt in the heat and let off toxic gasses! Popular bags of the sixties were made from similar space-age materials, such as PVC and polyurethane, though they had become much safer by then. Fire-retardant fleece, ballistic nylon, nylon webbing, velcro, and even kevlar have all been appropriated from other industries and used in women’s handbags. No doubt the next great breakthrough in material science will be reflected in the next generation of women’s bags.

The Future of the Handbag
The handbag’s past may not be long, only a recent few hundred years out of many millennia, but the history of the handbag is the history of women: women’s changing tastes, priorities, and roles in society. Handbags have thrived in times of excess and survived in times of scarcity, and even defied repeated calls by feminists to replace them with pockets. We cannot divine the future of the woman’s handbag. But, if its past is any indicator, we can be sure the handbag of the future will reflect the values of the woman of the future.

Image 1:  Women’s Pockets, England mid – 18th Century, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Image 2: Reticule, France 1800 -1825, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Image 3: Woman’s Handbag, US c.1904, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Image 4: Woman’s Lucite Purse, US C. 1953, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Hermes Kelly Vert Celadon Natura

The Hermes Kelly Vert Celadon Natura: the rare and beautiful predecessor of the iconic Hermes Himalaya Birkin and Kelly Handbags.

The Hermes Himalaya Birkin bag is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and sought-after bags in the world. First produced in the early 2000’s, the Himalaya is produced in both Birkin and Kelly styles. Whilst all Hermes collectors and enthusiasts will immediately know the Himalaya Birkin or Kelly, the forerunner to this jewel in the crown of Hermes bags, the Vert Celadon Natura, is less well known and incredibly rare.

The origins of the Hermes Himalayan design began in the 1990s when the Hermes Kelly Vert Celadon Natura was first unveiled, that Hermès only manufactured in the Kelly bag format. The term Natura refers to the coloring of exotic handbags of the early 20th century, when it was craftsmen were unable to remove all of the natural pigment from alligator or crocodile skins, even after meticulous processing. The color gradient seen on the Celadon comes from the natural variation in color and texture and of the animal skin, which can still be seen showing through the dye. In contrast to the Himalaya, the unique color gradient seen on the Hermes Kelly Vert Celadon Natura is not created by bleaching and then adding colour back by dying the bleached leather.

For the Hermes collector, obtaining either a Hermes Birkin or Kelly Himalaya bag is an achievable dream; the ability to buy the Hermes Kelly Celadon Vert Natura is a much more difficult task. AS far as we are aware, only four Hermes Kelly Celadon Vert Natura bags have been offered for sale in the last five years. Christies sold two – a K28 in 2016 which the hammer fell at 57,900 Euros and a K32 in 2018 for $47,500. Arcturial also sold a K28 for 39,000 Euros in 2018. Since these bags were sold, the appreciation of the rarity and craftsmanship of these extraordinary bags has led to their value increasing enormously and the only other Kelly Celadon Vert Natura sold during the last few years was a Y stamp (1995) K32 which Lilac Blue London sold for £62,000 in October 2020. 1st recently advertised a Hermes Kelly Celadon Vert Nature with a Y stamp (1994) K28 available at 100,000 Euros. Lilac Blue London are delighted to announce that we have a Hermes Kelly Celadon Vert Natura X stamp (1995) K28 available for £62,000. This is an almost once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain this exclusive and rare Hermes bag. One for the true collector, that other true Hermes enthusiasts will both recognize and admire.

Vert Celadon Natura Kelly 28


A New Investment Advice Service

A New Investment Advice Service

Following requests for advice and guidance, Lilac Blue London, seller of precious handbags, has started an advisory service.

Lilac Blue London is a boutique business which has been discreetly working for the most privileged people across the world since 2007, selling new and vintage Hermès and Chanel handbags.  In the years since then, the market has developed in an extraordinary fashion, and we have watched and advised on the trends and the annual increase in prices and financial returns on investments in the market.

To coincide with our launch of a handbag collectable’s insurance offering we are now offering a unique investment service.

Our niche business has led the resale market for years, collecting, examining and authenticating fine leather and intricately crafted pieces.  We have advised Royalty, A-list celebrities, Captains of industry and serious fashionistas on what to buy, and even more importantly, when.  Our company has helped trace fraudsters, train auction houses and has accumulated unrivalled knowledge over the past decade.

With the growing awareness of the lucrative financial potential investment in handbags and the repeated requests for information and advice, Lilac Blue London is now introducing a private consultation service.  People invest and buy handbags for a variety of different reasons.  It is in our interest for people to be happy with their purchase and this is the core of our company ethos.  So while you can search on Instagram and Google for sellers, and you may find something you really desire, it’s hard to know if it is the right bag for you.  Especially if you cannot meet the person selling it and have to buy sight unseen.  Our new services helps you buy with confidence, from whoever you choose.

Lilac Blue’s by-appointment showroom in Mayfair has a collection of new, pre-loved and vintage Hermès and Chanel bags.  Until now appointments have only been available to collectors and returning clients.  We are now expanding our service and inviting people to come and meet us to help you understand which bag is perfect for you.  As we know resellers across the world we will provide a reference, or will be able to advise if you are buying from a known and reputable seller.  While we cannot guarantee a profitable return on investment or the quality of a bag bought from another company we pride ourselves on looking after our clients and will arm you with more knowledge and confidence during a consultation than you will find elsewhere.

When you invest in a luxury investment, you should consider the following:

  • What will bring the best returns on an investment
  • What the right bag for you might be, considering: 
    • Whether you want to wear the beautiful item
    • Whether it is to sell in the next 10 years
    • Or to hand down to your children
    • Whether this will be your first purchase
  • What kind of collection you might like to build 
  • How to maintain a bag
  • Security issues
  • Storing and conditioning your investment
  • And importantly:  how much you want to spend

  Llora handbag

The Cost

The fee of £250.00 + VAT for a 45 minute consultation is redeemable against any purchase from Lilac Blue London within a 7 day period.

Up to two people may come for the appointment in person, or it can take place over Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or the telephone.

A black Birkin 30cm in togo leather

Case Study

Mr Brown wanted to buy a bag for Mrs Brown for her 40th birthday, and he wanted it to be a bag she could wear occasionally but would also keep its price. He also wanted to buy an investment piece for his daughter: a bag that would not be worn but would be kept and either worn in years to come or sold.

A rose confetti 28cm Kelly in epsom leather

Our solution: Mrs Brown received a black Birkin 30cm in classic calf leather with gold hardware.  The classic colours hold their value well, and while a 25cm may be the trendy small bag of 2020/21, in the long-term a larger bag is a better investment.

For the young Miss Brown, a baby pink Kelly bag size 28cm was the solution.  This was girly enough for Mr Brown to love giving his daughter and the right colour and size to be adored by a young girl.  Baby pink is one of the most coveted colours of the last 10 years, while size 28 is also practical enough for people to wear, so he could be confident that it will maintain its value if worn, and increase in price if carefully kept in perfect condition.

To move forward, please contact us at

Hermès Birkin Sizes

Hermès Birkin Sizes: Yes, it matters

Birkin bag sizes

The Hermès Birkin was first made in a size 35cm  The handbag was first introduced in 1984, designed by Jean-Louis Dumas at Hermès for actress Jane Birkin.  It was designed as a practical ladies holdall and had to include space for the actress’ little girl Lou’s baby bottles.  You can imagine the space needed.  The bag that Mr Dumas designed for Jane Birkin was 35 size and measured 35cm wide x 25cm high x 18cm deep.

The size 35 Birkin is ideal for:

  • A large everyday bag
  • A workbag which will hold an iPad, phone, wallet, makeup, hairbrush
  • A baby bag to hold bottles, muslin cloth and essentials
  • A practical travel bag but beware, it will only just fit under an aircraft seat

40 size: Bigger is Better

Later in the 1980’s a 40 size Birkin was created.  This one measures 40cm x 30cm x 21cm and is more of a travel bag.  When you bear in mind that the Birkin is made in thick resilient cowhide and lined in goatskin, you begin to understand the weight bag of the bag.  It’s heavy.  This 40cm has gained some popularity amongst men but for most women it’s really only usable as a travel bag, and isn’t usually an accessory to be worn every day.

The size 40 Birkin is ideal for:

  • A travel bag as long as you are travelling business class or by private plane or are happy to place the bag in an overhead locker on a flight
  • A travel bag for car journeys
  • A large gym bag
  • A work bag to hold laptop, iPad, phone, wallet, makeup, hairbrush
  • A baby bag for bottles, nappy, muslin and food

Birkin 30 size: Down-sizing

The next to come along was the Birkin 30 size.  This was designed in response to complaints about the weight of the bag, and the increasing incidence of tennis elbow from carrying it!  Victoria Beckham was one of the first enthusiasts in Hollywood for the Birkin 30 size, before launching her own line of handbags.

The 30 size Birkin measures 30cm x 22cm x 16cm.  By today’s standard, when small bags are all the rage, the Birkin 30 size is still a practical bag, and mine fits everything I need.  Once I squeeze the kitchen sink in there as well it gets quite heavy, but usually, it feels reassuring present without being overbearing.

The size 30 Birkin is ideal:

  • As an everyday work bag
  • Lunching with the girlfriends
  • Shopping in Knightsbridge
  • To fit your phone, wallet, makeup, hairbrush and if you really want to squeeze it in, your iPad as well.

The even smaller Hermès Birkin size 25

The Hermes Birkin size 25 measures 25cm x 20cm x13cm.  When it first came out, it felt really small.  But most of us have become accustomed to smaller bags and now that I’ve swapped my wallets out to a small Constance purse it is occasionally manageable.  We tell our customers that the bag works well for a lunch with a girlfriend, or for an evening out.  I’m looking forward to saying that again when lockdown ends….

Beware, only small hands can fit through the handles.  And don’t try to fit too much in it, because you will stretch the leather which will misshape the bag.

The size 25 Birkin is ideal:

  • For lunches out
  • For shopping
  • For evenings out
  • It will hold your wallet, phone and makeup



Fashion item or investment piece?

Vintage Himalaya Birkin 30

Vintage Himalaya Birkin 30

Both actually!

The Hermès handbag has always been an object of desire, initially as a fashion item but over the last decade and more it has grown to be a particularly profitable investment opportunity.  Knight Frank’s 2021 Wealth Report has just been published and confirms what many of us already knew – if you’re looking for a safe place to put your money then alongside cars, watches, wine and some furniture the Hermès bag is a good bet.

The table below shows just how well the Hermès handbag has performed; it has once again topped the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index (KFLII) with prices rising by 17%, according to the index compiler AMR.

In a year when the value of art has fallen due to the collapse of public auctions and that of coloured diamonds because of the difficulty in transporting them the handbag market thrived.  Christie’s Hong Kong sold an especially rare Himalaya Kelly for £309,561 in November 2020 – the most expensive handbag bought at auction yet.  A well established online auction presence and the desire of bag collectors to continue buying even during the pandemic has ensured that Hermès maintains its pole position for another year – at least.

Source: Knight Frank Wealth Report 2021

Lilac Blue London can help you make that investment – read our blog here.

Does your bag need a pillow?

We have tried and tested a number of bag pillows, over our many years of selling bags. If you think that when we first sold Birkins, a size 35 Birkin was less than £5,000 ($8,000 or €6,000) at Hermes London, and it is now above £8,000 ($10,000). Bag pillows have only been around for a few years, and they are not useful for all bags.

Firstly, consider this: is a bag pillow really needed for your beautiful accessory? Would you really buy an interior liner for a wallet? The answer is probably not. A pillow is a good idea if the bag has a certain amount of interior space which is likely to collapse when not in use, and if the leather is soft. For a small highly structured bag, you don’t really need a pillow. However, if the leather is likely to fold, bend or relax, an interior bolster is a good idea. There are a number of bag pillows on the market. We have tried and tested a few, we have invested in a few, and we have created our own based on years of sampling and stuffing. As the company’s founder, I spent hours and hours with our design goddess Tara: discussing, drawing, designing and debating over months to get them right. These were the key considerations:

Structure and fit for purpose:  We wanted a bag pillow that will comfortably fit into a bag and hold it securely. It had to poke into the bottom corners, but still allow the bag to be closed with the pillow inside. On this myself and Tara Gelpey, our design guru, were in complete agreement. But on other considerations we differed and discussions were lengthy:

Safety: it must not hold any scent or moisture. I needed it to be biodegradable but Tara was adamant that care must be taken with natural materials as it must not absorb any scent or moisture.

Made by hand: I wanted them to be made by hand in the UK. Both to support UK industry and to allow local control. With her background in design and manufacturing, Tara was well aware that the UK’s manufacturing base is not strong, not flexible, not speedy, and expensive. I won this round, and we found a number of textile designers and manufacturers and started discussions with them.

Colour: I wanted jaunty colours that would ‘pop’ inside clients’ wardrobes. Colours that would make them happy to see their bags and to use the pillows. Tara opted for trendy, toned down shades that calm the spirit and blend into the background.

Material: My vote was for fun material that would shine and make people smile. Tara preferred material that could be washed with ease and was in no danger of transferring onto any handbags made of pale shades.

And so it went on!!

A year of design and samples later… we believe that we have produced the most fun, handmade, biodegradable and UK-made bag bolsters:

Natural cotton corduroy triangular pillows, with gentle piping to hold the shape, structured but not overly filled pillows in a range of colours. I think the only way you can tell how much we differed in our desires is by the colours.

To please me we produced:

Pink with grey piping. Girly, pretty, understated, pastel. Click here to purchase.

Pink with red piping – my fave. Fun, bold, joyful and confident. Every time you see it you will feel good. Available here.

Red with ivory piping. – Tara called it strawberries and cream. A Wimbledon tennis theme. Available here.

To please herself and the seriously fashionable amongst you, Tara designed:

Grey with ivory piping. Understated elegance. She knew I wouldn’t be able to find fault with this. Buy one here.

Teal with yellow piping. This is clearly the most on-trend option and way beyond my comprehension. Apparently it gives vibes of peace and calm … Again, what can I say? On trend, challenging for me, with bold colours that I can only admire.… Click here to buy.

If you are looking for your own design, or a particular size, we are happy to help. Please call us on 0845 224 8776 or email to talk to us.

Taking care of your Hermès bags

Are you cleaning your home during lockdown? Are you trying to take the Marie Kondo lessons seriously?

Is it finally time to look through the wardrobe and find where to put those bags…?

Here is some help with how to store your precious handbags.

Where to store your bag

  1. The first thing to do is make sure your chosen storage area is clean, dry and has no persistent smells. Avoid areas which smell strongly, such as rooms where people smoke, or places close to a kitchen. The leather will absorb the smell of tobacco.
  2. Moisture in the air is needed, but only to a certain extent. Heavy air conditioning will dry the leather of your bag, so if you have to keep it in an extremely dry environment, make sure you condition the leather frequently: once every two months should be enough. Central heating will also dry the leather, so again, if your bag is near a radiator, make sure you condition it frequently.
  3. If you live in a humid environment, you might want to consider a dehumidifier, even if it’s just on an occasional basis. Important advice: do NOT leave your bag at the bottom and back of a wardrobe and forget about it for months on end. The leather will become misshapen and where it is bending, it will crack. We have people come in regularly to Lilac Blue London with bags that have been ignored and unloved. It takes us months sometimes to completely remove smells and recondition leathers. And sometimes it is just not possible to reshape bags once the leather has been forcibly reshaped while badly stored.
  4. So do avoid letting the leather on your bag sag. Stuff it with a cushion if possible, or ideally with a bag pillow – available here: Lilac Blue Bag Bolsters.
  5. Do not store your bag upright as it will encourage sagging. Try to store it in the original Hermes box, lying down with the handles supported by the paper cushion it came with, or by another bag pillow.

How to clean a Hermès bag?

Top Tips from the largest Hermès bag reseller in London.

  1. Don’t be frightened of cleaning your Hermès calf leather bag. It is made from one of the best and strongest leathers available, so is more resilient than you might think.
  2. Always wipe off any dust or surface dirt, using a clean soft cloth, before applying a polish.
  3. Use a leather cleaning cream, or gel.
  4. If you have a leather which is pebbled (just as togo or taurillon clemence) and you use a cream, beware that the cream can get in-between the grooves of the leather and takes a lot of buffing to remove. So use a light cream or gel if you can. Top Tip: try using a soft brush toothbrush can work to get into the grooved texture of the leather.
  5. Work the cream into the leather with a soft cloth, in a circular motion, until all the product is absorbed.
  6. Take another soft cloth and polish the area that has been cleaned.
  7. Use a protective leather care spray to finish.
  8. If the leather is heavily worn Hermès will clean it in the Hermès Spa. They will also replace the handles, the metal wear at the front. And if you really want, they will replace the leather belt. Beware, it can take up to 6 months. Top Tip: try taking your bag to the Hermès Spa in January or September when waiting lists are at their shortest.
  9. Remember: prevention is better than cure! Protect your bag with a leather protector, and wipe it clean regularly, before any stains can set in. For crocodile or lizard, use a specialist cleaning such as Reptile Beauty Milk by Saphir. You can buy it here: Saphir Reptan Cleaning Cream

Investing in Hermes

Luxury items are increasingly seen as an investment vehicle and Hermes handbags are no exception; for several years they have featured in the Knight Frank Wealth Report and this year it seem the Hermes Birkin has outperformed the FTSE 100 index.

Three years ago in Miami a handbag sold for $298,000 (approximately £205,000).  A simple handbag.  Hailed as the most expensive handbag ever to sell, it was a Hermes Birkin made in bright red shiny crocodile with white gold straps encrusted with 10 carats of diamonds.    It was purchased in 2008 for half the price but never worn.    What was once considered an attractive accessory has turned into one of the world’s most lucrative investments.     Even ten years into the phenomenon, the trend continues to amaze people.

There are a number of reasons for the phenomenon.   If you consider other relatively new investment vehicles – wine, watches, and classic cars – they are all now accepted as alternative investment pieces, and are often highly profitable.   Now the once modest handbag has joined the club of these ‘passion assets’.  In general, they have become worthy investments through finite supply:  like a bottle of Romanee Conti or a limited edition Patek Philippe.    And as the world moves to more highly automated systems and machine-made goods, an awareness of the higher quality of handmade products has emerged.

The prices of classic cars started to rise in the 1990s.  An appreciation of the highly skilled workmanship, coupled with the romance and challenge of the gearstick, started to appeal to North American and then to European markets.   Cars outperformed the global stock market between 2005 and 2016.  Just this year, the 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti sold for a record breaking £24.7m.

The story is similar these days with vintage bags.  On a smaller, more manageable scale.

Mrs Thompson in Battersea, London, hadn’t worn her 1985 Hermes Kelly in ostrich leather more than twice.   Clearing through her wardrobe one rainy November afternoon she came across it and approached Lilac Blue London to value and sell it.   We estimate the bag cost her £550 in 1985.    It has just been sold at £12,000.

Or Mrs Mills in Suffolk, who had a collection of Hermes handbags bought in Las Vegas in 2000.  Her 35cm black crocodile Kelly has just gone on the market at £17,000.  The cost 16 years ago would have been approximately £5,000.

As the Times London explained: “Consider the following: in the 35 years since it was created, the value of the Hermes Birkin has gone up by 500 percent. That’s a better return on investment than gold or the stock market…. Why has this happened? In a nutshell, because even if you can afford them, they’re incredibly difficult to buy.”

In essence the bag itself has become a loved and cherished item, and at the same time handbags have become status symbols.  So combined together, these factors have turned an everyday accessory into a powerful investment piece.

So while older and vintage bags can be sold at high prices, New Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags sell at a premium of up to 100% because buying them is a serious challenge.   There are no more waiting lists in the UK: Hermes could not deal with the queues waiting outside the Bond Street store on the days the waiting list would open.   So to buy a bag takes serious application, patience, and expenditure on other goods in the store, and as a result, it becomes extremely desirable.

Then there is the new phenomenon of the handbag as a status symbol.

Historically, Europeans would buy one lovely handbag on a very special occasion.     So a lady had one or perhaps two luxurious handbags that she could hand down.    European royalty collected handbags: the Queen has a wonderful collection of Launer handbags.  But mere mortals would only have a few pieces.    Then, over the last 20 years, the popularity of handbags has grown in general, and as Hollywood A-listers started building collections of Hermes and Chanel bags, it became acceptable for well-heeled ladies to build collections of their most cherished accessories, and Hermes is at the very top of the list of luxury houses.

The Mastery of Hermes

How has Hermes managed to stay at the top, in creating the most desired handbag the world has ever known?   There is no doubt that this was never planned.  In no time in fashion history has a handbag achieved such status. But Hermes has harnessed and managed the situation extraordinarily well.   In order to increase the desirability of the bags, the iconic French brand limits the production of certain models.  They claim that only the finest artisans are able to create the Kelly and Birkin handbags, and with each bag taking up to 25 hours to make, they are unable to keep up with the demand.  With resellers selling the bags at vast premiums, Hermes is able to increase prices year on year, up to 10% per annum.  The classic Birkin 35cm is now just over £7,000 in a Hermes boutique.

What must not be overlooked is that this phenomenon could never have taken place without the creation of extremely beautiful products.   The style of Hermes bags is generally classic: the Kelly is a relatively formal bag which works extremely well at formal occasions.   The Birkin is a more practical piece; the size 35cm can hold enormous amounts (I have carried a laptop, travel documents and an ipad in one) but has no shoulder strap.

The handbags are created with the best leathers, in the best tanneries, and in a range of colours that no other luxury house can begin to achieve.    This bleu paradis limited edition Kelly from 2016 is one of 8 different shades of blue produced by Hermes in the last 5 years.

How to get your hands on one

If you are looking to buy a bag, first you should try your nearest Hermes boutique.  If you look beautiful and elegant enough, you may be given the chance to buy directly, if there happens to be one available.  If you would rather be able to choose the size, colour and leather, you might want to try a reseller.  Just make sure they are reputable and you can meet them before sending any funds. To buy a bag for an investment, see our article How To Choose an Investment Piece.

Please see also:

The Times Newspaper, March 2020
The Times Newspaper, February 2018
The Times Newspaper, January 2016


Hermes Birkin 35cm in Black & Fuschia, Shiny Croc with Ruthenium Hardware

Customise Your Bags

Customise Your Bags with Rocky Mazzilli & Janan Studio

Handbag customisation is the ultimate way to express your style and personality whilst extending the life of one of your favourite designer handbags.

Here at Lilac Blue London, we can introduce you to incredible handbag customisation specialists that can transform your handbag into a truly special piece that is completely exclusive to you.

Rocky Mazzilli

If you are looking for a one of a kind, bespoke hand painted style, Rocky Mazzilli from Year Zero London has worked with Lilac Blue London for many years and will ensure that your design ideas, no matter how elaborate, will come to life.

Started eight years ago by the Mazzilli family including Louise, Tatum and Rocky, this free-spirited independent brand is one of London’s best kept creative secrets.

Frequented by international mega stars such as; Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Will.I.Am, Lana Del Ray, Jason Derulo, Cara Delevigne , Rita Ora and Pharell to name a few, we can assure you that your luxury piece is in safe hands.   Recently Rocky has worked with Xupes on two Louis Vuitton pieces for Kylie Jenner and her daughter Stormi – read the full article here.

Lilac Blue London can arrange for Year Zero London to create a totally unique experience by offering you a bespoke customisation and hand painting service that can be used on everything from Louis Vuitton to Hermès Birkins and other luxury styles.

Not only can we help your design ideas come to life so your bag is completely bespoke, we will arrange for you to meet the artists behind the creations so you can become part of the design process.

If you are looking to transform your latest handbag into a masterpiece with excellent attention to detail, get in touch with the Lilac Blue London team on+44 845 224 8876 or email for more information.



Janan Studio

Janan Shihadeh, founder of Janan Studio, is a Palestinian born mural artist who specialises in customising bespoke designer vintage and new handbags in partnership with Lilac Blue London.

Educated in the United States and UK, Janan lives in Dubai and has a clientele around the world who look to her for unique handbag and luggage customisation, bespoke murals, painted furniture pieces and much more.

Janan paints everything from Chanel and Hermès handbags and has been featured in fashion publications such as Harper’s Bazaar for her exceptional works of art.

From detailed floral designs to more animated cartoon styles, Janan can turn any idea into reality.

If you love Janan’s style of work and you would like some direction to bring your personal design ideas to life, contact the Lilac Blue London team on+44 845 224 8876 or email and we will be delighted to introduce you to Janan and work with you on your latest customisation ideas.

The return of the Hermès Kelly Danse

The Kelly Danse is a small clutch bag designed to be worn cross body, around the waist, or as a back pack. It has just been re-released by Hermès to great excitement.   The desirability of this versatile little number is a great example of well-considered product marketing. It is something very few brands can afford to do and manage well.  This is what has happened: Hermès released the bag more than a decade ago, in small quantities, when the style and size was not at the height of fashion.  They then discontinued it, just as people began to understand its value.  This fuelled the bag’s desirability among a small following, and enhanced the brand image.  Years later, in autumn 2019, now the style has become fashionable, Hermès has re-released the piece, and voila, they have created a new bag which already has an eager audience.  And because it was designed before, Hermès can maintain its claim to not be influenced by trends.  As an added bonus, Hermès has attracted a new customer, a younger one, who follows seasonal trends, which is a new dimension in Hermès’ usual conservative  retail space.  Welcome back, the Kelly Danse!

Here is the Gris Perle Hermès Kelly Danse which we received yesterday.

The History of the Kelly Danse
The original Hermès Kelly Danse was released in 2007, in soft Swift leather, and discontinued in 2013.  It was a casual version of the Kelly Pochette, in softer leather, without the top handle, and with a long strap.  It never achieved the iconic status of the Kelly Pochette and was aimed at a younger market.  We love the name: it must be the only handbag Hermès has produced whose name hints at functionality: young ladies could dance while wearing a cross body handbag, which at that time was unheard of  in high fashion.

The Lilac Blue experience
We sold a handful of these bags between 2009 and 2012. Not many people knew of them and they were extremely casual for an Hermès design.  At this time the Kelly Pochette and Kelly Cut clutch bags were popular, but only amongst the serious Hermès cognoscenti.

Then just as Hermès stopped making the bag a number of our Kuwaiti clients – ladies from Kuwaiti high society were some of the first serious collectors of Hermès Birkins and Kellies – started asking for the Kelly Danse. Their girls could wear the bag cross body and they understood its chic yet practical design.
We had a Blue Jean one in stock for a few days in 2014. Then we had a terrible theft, of the Kelly Danse and four larger Kellies and Birkins. We tracked the bags
across London, and got most of them back, but the Kelly Danse had already been sold on, within a day!

Fast forward to 2019 and the world is going mad for small bags worn cross-body. And rucksacks. This bag meets both demands. It can also be worn as a bum bag, or fanny pack. But as you may know, Lilac Blue has never come to terms with the bum bag… the very name shrieks style disaster….

Parchemin Kelly Danse. Image courtesy of Xupes

The Kelly Danse original was 17 x 22 x 7cm with one strap which could be work single 63cm or doubled at 33cm.

The Kelly Danse II is the same dimensions, with a longer strap. It can now also be worn as a rucksack, or around the waist, if you really must.

The Danse Kelly was initially made in Swift leather – a smooth pliable leather suited to small accessories. Handbag buyers don’t like this leather, because it looks delicate and smooth on larger items, so Hermès has changed to the more resilient Evercolor. The Kelly Danse II appeared in July 2019, and we are currently only seeing it in natural colours such as Gris Perle and Etoupe.  As Hermès has concentrated the last few years on bright new hues, this may be a welcome return to neutral shades, at least for A/W 2019.

The price in Europe is €4,900 Euros, in the US approximately $7,000 USD – if you are lucky enough to be invited to purchase one. The price on the resale market looks set to be around €12,000, or £12,000 here in the UK.  This may change according to supply and demand.

Lilac Blue London has some pre-loved Kelly Danse bags from 2008 to 2012 in excellent condition in Black; Rose Dragee; and Jaune d’Or:

and new ones just arriving here.

Editorial Comment and Recommendations

Was the creation of the Kelly Danse and Kelly Danse II really part of a 12 year product marketing strategy? Did Hermès really tease us in 2008-12 with this bag, knowing that the market for very small bags would burgeon and explode in 2018? Almost certainly not. Hermès is extremely lucky to be able to release this bag right now: its launch in 2008 might be called ill-timed, the design ill-conceived. What is clear however is that Hermès has maintained its position at the very top of the luxury handbag market over the last decade, a decade which has seen exponential growth, investment and inflation in luxury accessories. Never before have so many women, across so many continents, coveted a Hermès handbag. So to have created a bag in 2008 which becomes highly desirable ten years later, and more importantly one which you can effortlessly re-release, is a stroke of good fortune and not a strategic stroke of genius. But having been dealt this amazing deck of cards, Hermès plays them unusually well. Arguably better than any other luxury brand.  This is why:

The last six months – Summer and Autumn of 2019 – has brought a frenzy of desire for an Hermès bag.  The last time the market was this alive with desire
and super inflated prices was 2012. The bag? The Mini Kelly II. Requests for the bag come from all corners of the world, every day. Prices for this Mini Kelly II 20cm have reached way beyond 100% above the retail price, and are currently – November 2019 – around £14,000 for a Black Mini Kelly. (Please be VERY careful if you are offered one for less than £11,000, please contact us if you are unsure of your seller.)  This level of markup in the handbag resale market –
from £6,000 to £15,000 – has not been  seen for many years. What an amazing achievement for Hermès.

Back to the relaunch of the Kelly Danse: it seems highly coincidental that the Mini Kelly 20cm production is stalled just as the Kelly Danse is released.  Will the Kelly Danse become as sought after as the Mini Kelly? While Hermès does not have an official Marketing Department, someone is seeking to ensure that the hunger for bags continues to grow and younger customers are drawn to the brand.

If you like the Kelly Danse and the Mini Kelly, have you considered one of the original Mini Kellies?  You can find this Mini Kelly here.  And to see how these bags shape high street fashion, you only have to look at this new Lee Radziwill Petite Bag by Tory Birch.
Available at Shopbop.

And if you really want to show your individuality and appreciation of the rare, this Hermès yellow Lizard Mini Kelly, which is from 1986 and may be older than many of you, is a rare collector’s piece.  It is fragile and worn, but is expected to grow enormously in value.

Our thanks go to Purse Blog for their endlessly brilliant writing and research.

Annabelle Hunt

Beautiful Box Birkin

This bag was bought by our dear partner, a collector of Hermes bags who is selling a few of her pieces to fund her post graduate degree.

It is H Stamp, made in 2004. This officially makes the bag a vintage piece.

Box leather was the leather initially used for Kelly handbags. It’s a calf leather, is smooth and very beautiful, with a slight sheen. However, being very smooth, with a very gentle grain, it does scratch more easily than the better-known togo and clemence leathers, and this frightens people. What many people don’t realise is that once the leather has suffered some wear and tear, it develops a lovely sheen, a gentle patina.

This bag is unusual because it’s 35cm, which is large for box leather. It was made as a special order, so only a handful of bags in this combination of leather or colour were ever created. The raisin leather is edged in cyclamen, a light purple which also lines the bag.

It shows signs of gentle wear on the base and the feet, but the signs of use the body of the bag are so gentle that it looks new. Box leather is sturdy so the bag will continue to stand upright for many years. The hardware has all been completely replaced and there are still plastic protectors on the metal.

This is one of a few pieces that we would recommend as an investment.

For more information or to purchase please click HERE

New to Lilac Blue London

Watches, but not just any watch….  We have often been asked by clients visiting the Lilac Blue London showroom if we sell other luxury items, particularly watches.  Up until recently we haven’t as we’ve liked to concentrate on our core business, however we don’t like to disappoint so having made some connections with trusted suppliers Lilac Blue London are delighted to announce that we have a small selection of extremely lovely watches available from Patek Philippe and Rolex, two manufacturers who are at the very peak of the luxury watch business.

Patek Philippe has an unrivalled reputation for quality and sells some of the most expensive watches ever made, in fact just a few days ago a one-of-a-kind Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime sold for the breathtaking figure of £24.3 million.  The quality of design, materials and craftsmanship is outstanding and when you own a Patek Philippe you are showing pride and appreciation of the traditional Swiss watchmaker’s art.

Rolex is quite probably the most well known watch brand in the world, their models have been worn by many celebrated figures both past, present and fictional.  Their watches are created with a purpose – for diving, climbing, flying – and are all superbly made to the highest standards.  Paul Newman’s Daytona sold in 2017 for US$17.8 million and for some time held the record for the most expensive watch ever sold.

Watches from Lilac Blue London


If you’d like information on any of these watches or to ask us to find one for you, please get in touch via WhatsApp: +44 7887 409934


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