High demand for Hermès continues at Christie's HK$52.5m Handbags & Accessories sale

Among handbag lovers, the Hermès Himalaya Birkin is hailed as the Holy Grail in a collection, while the Himalaya Kelly is dubbed as the rarest bag in the world – both are considered the ultimate status symbol.

Christie’s once again proved so at the Handbags & Accessories sale in Hong Kong this spring, with both Himalaya bags selling above HK$1.6 million (around US$203,000) to become the sale’s most and third most expensive lots, while the second place goes to the playful Quelle Idole. 

Lot 3915 | Hermès 2019 | Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 25 with palladium hardware
Year: 2019
25 x 19 x 14 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Sold: HK$1,764,000 (around US$224,000)

Lot 3916 | Hermès 2019 | Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Retourné Kelly 25 with palladium hardware
Year: 2019
25 x 19 x 9 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Sold: HK$1,638,000 (around US$208,000)

Himalaya bags are perhaps the most sought-after items at fashion auctions. Last year in Hong Kong, a Himalaya Kelly 28 encrusted with 18k white gold and diamond set the world auction record for handbags at HK$4 million (around US$510,000) – breaking the record made the previous year, when again at Christie’s Hong Kong, a Himalaya Kelly 25 with no diamonds realized HK$3.3 million (around US$420,000).

So how did Himalaya bags achieve such status?

The answer lies in its craftsmanship and rarity. The Himalaya bag is named for the Himalaya mountains, not because of its origin, but rather of the delicate gradation of the colour. The smoky grey and brown on the sides gradually fades into a pearly white in the centre, resembling the snow-capped Himalaya peaks.

Left: The record-breaking 28 cm Kelly handbag | Right: The previous record 25 cm Kelly handbag

Achieving such effect is arduous, as the colour does not come naturally from the crocodile skins, but by a painstaking dyeing process. The craftsman must first select a naturally light skin – which in itself is already gruelling. Then the skin needs to be dried, descaled, depigmented, and finally redyed to create a gradient effect.

Handcrafted, every Himalaya bag is unique and can be styled to the client’s preference. Due to the time-consuming construction process, the brand only offers an extremely limited number of Himalaya bags to its VIP clients, making them nearly impossible to come by and a true collector’s item of excellent market value.

Lot 3825 | Hermès 2021 | A custom matte black alligator & rouge vif swift leather Quelle Idole with palladium hardware
Year: 2021
15 x 12 x 6 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$600,000 - 800,000
Sold: HK$1,638,000 (around US$208,000)

Apart from the Himalaya bags, another Hermès bag that is highly coveted among collectors is the Quelle Idole – more popularly known as Kelly Doll. Carrying a low estimate of HK$600,000 (around US$76,000), the matte black alligator and rouge vif swift leather quelle idole fetched HK$1.6 million (around US$200,000).

First released in 2000, it is designed by then Hermès chairman Jean-Louis Dumas. With a grinning face and dandling arms, the bag is a whimsical take on the brand's iconic Kelly bag. A creative mix of luxury handbag and child’s toy, even its name is a play on the French phrase “quelle idole”, which translates to “what an idol!”

A Kelly Doll designed for the SOGO department store opening in Hong Kong in 2010

Originally retailed for around US$2,500, it wasn’t until the bag discontinued in 2005 that it becomes a most-wanted item for Hermès collectors. Starting from 2008, Kelly Doll popped back up from time to time, mostly to mark the opening of new boutiques around the world and was incredibly rare on the resale market.

HSS Kelly Dolls

Custom-made order featuring a special horseshoe stamp

The exciting news for handbag lovers struck in 2017, when the first HSS – custom-made order featuring a special horseshoe stamp – Kelly Doll emerge from Hermès’ workshops. Since then numerous examples have come on to the secondary market in various combinations.

The rarest and most coveted HSS Kelly Doll are rendered in Matte Alligator – which is the present lot – as the brand keeps the production of these extremely limited. 

Other Highlights:

Lot 3958 | Hermès 2020 | A limited edition bleu du nord swift leather & osier Mini Picnic Kelly with palladium hardware
Year: 2020
18.5 x 13.5 x 7 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$240,000 - 320,000
Sold: HK$1,071,000 (around US$136,000)

During the end of the last decade, mini bags reigned supreme. Recently in the world of handbags, the smaller its size, the longer its waiting list goes. Therefore when the classic Kelly is downsized to a mini bag – not to mention its summer-vibed fine wicker basket twist – it comes as no surprise that collectors would go viral and spend million dollars on it. 

Lot 3928 | Hermès 2020 | Fauve barénia leather & bog oak Kellywood 22 with palladium hardware
Year: 2020
22 x 19 x 8.5 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$600,000 - 800,000
Sold: HK$1,512,000 (around US$192,000)

Lot 3968 | Hermès 2020 | Matte bleu marine alligator, deep blue madame, orange h swift, bleu indigo & bleu obscur sombrero, craie epsom leather faubourg sellier Birkin 20 with palladium hardware
Year: 2020
20 x 16 x 11 cm
Grade: 1
Estimate: HK$800,000 - 1,200,000
Sold: HK$1,260,000 (around US$160,000)

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie's Hong Kong
Sale: Handbags & Accessories
Date: 23 May 2022 
Number of lots: 189
Sold: 179
Unsold: 10
Sale Rate: 94.7%
Sale Total: HK$52,597,440