The Hermès Hall of Fame: HK tycoon Joseph Lau's handbag collection now opens for bidding

In the fashion world, a Hermès Birkin or a Kelly is considered the holy grail of handbags – to get your hands on it is to face a quest that requires considerable time, patience and flexibility. For handbag lovers who are tired of the lengthy waiting list, here comes a rare chance for you to grab your dream Hermès bag.

From now on until 9 February, 77 handbags from the collection of Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau will be auctioned off online, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. The largest single-owner handbag sale in Asia, it features an extravagant array of bags that the billionaire has curated over the past two decades – from limited-edition pieces such as the extremely rare bronze metallic Kelly to the six diamond Birkins in different colors and sizes. 

Out of such a dazzling range of options, here are the top picks by The Value:

Exhibition of the handbags offered for sale 

The Ultimate Glam

Lot 115 | Hermès | Black Matte Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 30 18K White Gold and Diamond Hardware, 2006
30 x 22 x 16 cm
Estimate: HK$500,000 - 700,000 (US$64,100 - 89,700)

A status symbol, the Birkin is a crown jewel in any bag collection, highly sought-after by celebrities and handbag-obsessed. 

Named after actress and “it girl” Jane Birkin, the bag was conceived by the starlet and Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight to London, where Birkin confided in Dumas that she lacked a purse with appropriate functionality for her fast-paced lifestyle. Out of this conversation, the Birkin 40 in chic calfbox leather was born.

Since its debut in 1984, the Birkin has remained a must-have for handbag collectors, thanks also to its impeccable craftsmanship and exclusivity. As a house that prides itself on artisanal practice, each Birkin takes an expert artisan a minimum of 18 hours to create, and up to days for one with the most luxurious exotic crocodile skin. 

Hermès | Bleu Jean Shiny Porosus Crocodile Birkin 25 with 18k White Gold and Diamonds Hardware | Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000

Hermès | Porosus Crocodile Birkin 30 with 18k White Gold and Diamonds Hardware in various colours | Low estimates range from HK$400,000 to 500,000

While crocodile Birkins have been coveted by even A-listers, included in the sale are six exquisite versions, all in different sizes and colours, pairing perfectly with the diamond-encrusted 18k white gold hardware.

For Birkin 30, the cadenas lock alone is comprised of around 68.4 grams of 18k white gold and encrusted with 40 white, round brilliant diamonds. On the bag, three different structural elements of the Birkin – the Touret, the Pontets, and the Plaques de Sanglons – feature more than 200 diamonds for a total of around 10 carats.  

Lot 104 | Hermès | Limited Edition Bronze Chèvre Metallic Kelly 25 Sellier Gold Hardware, 2005
25 x 19 x 9 cm
Estimate: HK$400,000 - 600,000 (US$51,300 - 76,900)

Frequently described as the more elegant sister of the Birkin, the Kelly bag is the oldest and most classic bag of Hermès. Orginally known as the Sac à Dépêches, it was designed in the 1930s as a sophisticated reinterpretation of the house's larger saddle bags for equestrian. With a sleek trapezoid shape, practical straps, and a sturdy top handle, the bag was a bold and statement piece in the era of ultra-feminity. 

The Sac à Dépêches' golden age came in the 1950s, when it became a favourite of actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly. While filming To Catch A Thief in 1955, she was given the bag as part of the wealthy character's lavish wardrobe – and the Hollywood star was instantly captivated by it, so much that she refused to part with it off set. 

While she was often spotted carrying the bag, it was until she began to use it to conceal the early signs of her pregnancy that the bag shot to international fame. As a nod to the Princess, Hermès renamed the bag the “Kelly” in 1977.

Grace Kelly was photographed holding the bag over her stomach

A fashion icon with a storied history rich in glamour and royalty, the Kelly comes in countless variations, and the Metallic collection is a true vintage treasure that was only in production in 2004 and 2005 with limited quantities.

The bag, which required artisans to hand-dye the metallic pigmentation onto the leather until its texture changes, was inspired by the famous window displays designed by Leïla Menchari for the Hermès flagship store at 24, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. 

Over the past decade, only six metallic Birkins and Kellys have made its appearance at auction, the last of which achieved HK$1.07 million in 2022 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, making it the most expensive leather Birkin to come to auction.

Exhibition of the handbags offered for sale 

A Dose of Quirkiness


Lot 107 | Hermès | Limited Edition Orange H and Chocolat Gulliver Quelle Idole Kelly Doll Palladium Hardware, 2000
15 x 12 x 6 cm
Estimate: HK$200,000 - 400,000 (US$25,600 - 51,300)

A whimsical take on a timeless silhouette, the Quelle Idole, or more popularly known as Kelly Doll, playfully combines the opulent Kelly bag with a child's toy, complete with a grinning face and dangling arms.

First released in 2000 and retailed for around US$2,500, it wasn’t until the bag discontinued in 2005 that it became a most-wanted item for Hermès collectors. Starting from 2008, Kelly Doll has popped back up from time to time, mostly to mark the opening of new boutiques around the world, such as SOGO Department in Hong Kong in 2010.

The exciting news for handbag lovers struck in 2017, when the first HSS – custom-made order featuring a special horseshoe stamp – Kelly Doll left Hermès’ workshops. Since then, numerous examples have come to the secondary market in various combinations – and this classic Hermès orange is certainly not to be missed. 

Lot 110 | Hermès | Limited Edition Ebene Box, Veau Doblis and Shearling Teddy Kelly 35 Retourne Palladium Hardware, 2005
35 x 25 x 13 cm
Estimate: HK$150,000 - 260,000 (US$19,230 - 33,300)

As trends come and go, shearling has always found its way back at fashion's center stage. Over the last two seasons, fluffy bag has made a strong comeback on the runways, with examples being spotted on the arms of models at heritage houses like Chanel or young labels such as Jacquemus. And for Hermès fans who is looking to keep up with the furry trend, here's the limited-edition Shearling Teddy Kelly. 

Designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for his Fall/Winter 2005 collection, it is structured in the classic Kelly shape and stitched with tan suede and shearling, giving it a trend-forward twist and a dash of warmth the season calls for. The bag also features dark brown Ebene leather accents with palladium-plated hardware, which adds a touch of sophistication to balance out the heaviness of shearling.

At size 35 cm, it is the perfect accessory for chilly weekends or your next glam ski trip –  an ideal pairing with your oversize coat and chunky boots during those frigid winter days.

The Everyday Essentials

Lot 114 | Hermès | Limited Edition Black Box So Black Kelly 35 Retourne Black PVD Hardware, 2010
35 x 25 x 13 cm
Estimate: HK$150,000 - 260,000 (US$19,230 - 33,300)

Black never goes out of style. While a black Kelly stands alone as an ultimate embodiment of timeless elegance, Jean Paul Gaultier took that a step further in 2010 when he launched the So Black collection – a bag made for monochromatic blackaholics. 

The limited-edition So Black bags are as their names suggest – all black. From the padlocks and keys to swivel clasps and base studs, all of the hardware has been changed from standard palladium or gold to a black PVD coating, giving the Kelly subtle head-turning details and an urban chic. 

As one of Jean Paul Gaultier's final creations for Hermès and the only bags in the brand's history to have black hardware, So Black Kelly is nearly impossible to come by and highly-coveted among collectors. 

Lot 103 | Hermès | Sable Evergrain Constance 24 Gold Hardware, 2012
24 x 17 x 5 cm
Estimate: HK$60,000 - 80,000 (US$7,700 - 10,300)

Back in the late 60s, Hermès draftswoman Catherine Chaillet was tasked by artistic director Jean-Louis Dumas to design a bag for the house. Chaillet, who was pregnant with her fifth daughter at the time, naturally named the bag after her newborn daughter, Constance. 

Proudly bearing the maison's inititals on its "H" clasp, the Constance is part of the renowned "Hermès Holy Trinity" along with the Birkin and Kelly. Since its first introduction in 1967, Constance bags have captured the hearts of generation after generation of Hermès clients – among them was First Lady Jacquline Kennedy, who frequently sported the bag and pushed its popularity to greater heights. 

The present Constance is made of evergrain leather, which boasts a luxurious softness as the embossed version of the silk-like evercalf leather. It comes in the standard size of 24 cm, allowing you to fit a wallet, phone, and other necessities with ease. Together with the beige colour, it is a minimalist staple for your everyday wardrobe.

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby's Hong Kong
Sale: The Art of Collecting Handbags - The Visionary Collection of Joseph Lau (Part I)
Date: 30 January - 9 February 2022
Number of Lots: 77