Published: Oct 5, 2020
So, you want to buy your first Hermes bag? We are with you 100% - Hermes handbags are in a league of their own in terms of their unmatched quality and luxury, status, exclusivity and style. There is simply no other fashion designer like Hermes. Unlike other designers, the term “entry level” does not apply to Hermes handbags.
In terms of sheer price range, “entry level” into Hermes would be a scarf or twilly. For handbags, Hermes only offers the expensive and the super expensive. However, this price difference is not due to quality difference: the super expensive bags are priced as such because of rarity and exclusivity (i.e. a $5,000 Evelyn bag is of no less quality than a $50,000 Birkin, rather the Evelyn is more common and accessible).
The real differentiating factors between Hermes bags are their purpose and function. That is the beauty of Hermes: the brand only offers products of utmost luxury and quality, yet ensures that these products are as usable as they are beautiful.
So, which Hermes bag should you buy first?
That depends on two factors: function and purpose.
The Function: regardless of how beautiful it is - a bag is to carry things. The first question you should ask yourself is: what am I going to carry in my Hermes bag? Are you carrying a laptop, books or files? Are you toting around various supplies for a long day of errands? Or do you need to travel light and carry your phone and some credit cards?
In their line, Hermes offers various totes, clutches, satchels, messengers, hand-carry bags and shoulder-carry bags. Your preference is of course another consideration: are you a big-time organizer who desires multiple pockets inside your handbag? Or do you prefer a large, open space inside your bag? It seems as though Hermes has taken every consideration in the design of their handbags, as there is an Hermes bag for everyone.
The Purpose: where are you taking your Hermes bag? Are you a businesswoman needing something luxurious and durable, yet subtle enough for the professional space? Are you about to go out to a nice dinner or event and need something incredibly fashionable to carry your essentials? Or, are you looking for an everyday carry that you can rely on to get any job done? This is where style and material choice come into play.
Some Hermes bags are made with clou, or feet on the bottom so you can rest the bag down without damaging the leather. Hermes also offers several material choices, with some like Clemence and Epsom leather exhibiting far more durable and water-resistant qualities than other leather choices, making these bags perfect for everyday carry.
Your needs should directly influence the style and construction of your first Hermes bag. Below we break down some of our favorite Hermes bags, discussing how and why they fit into different situations and lifestyles, usability and pricing.
1. Hermes Garden Party Tote:
The Garden Party is an essential staple in the Hermes handbag lineup, being the do-it-all casual tote bag. While the GP is not a huge tote, its wide, cavernous interior will carry almost anything you want it to. Available in three sizes: S/30, M/36 and L/39, there’s a Garden Party for every woman out there. .
Caption: Hermes Garden Party bag in dark brown.
- Function: The GP excels at carrying all your daily essentials (phone, tablet, wallet, keys, sunglasses, makeup, baby wipes, your favorite book etc) in one bag.
- Purpose: for the moms spending a day with kids, running multiple errands or taking a day trip, the Garden Party will be an essential companion. If you like your handbags more durable, look for GPs made from sturdy Hermes toile canvas. If you like more relaxed, stretchy totes, you would love the calf leather GP. Because you can fit your whole life in the Garden Party, it is a very popular first entrance into the Hermes family of handbags.
- 2020 Starting Retail Price: $2,075
2. Hermes Evelyn Messenger:
Modeled after a horse saddle bag, the Evelyn is infused with Hermes’ equestrian heritage. Designed to carry its contents securely and slung over the shoulder, this bag is perfect for those on-the-go who want to travel lightly and in style.
There’s a reason why the Evelyn is one of, if not the single most popular Hermes bag, and that is because of its perfect balance of utility and beauty. Available in 4 sizes, Mini, Medium, Large and Extra Large, you can find an Evelyn perfectly suited to your needs and what you need to fit inside it.
Caption: Hermes Evelyn bag.
- Function: The Hermes Evelyn won’t hold as much as a tote, but will be able to carry your essentials and then some as you go about a busy day. It is the perfect companion for coffee dates, meetups, shopping or errands, allowing you to bring the best of Hermes quality and style along with you.
- Purpose: The best part about the Evelyn is that it is available in a number of signature Hermes colors. You choose whether you want it to be understated luxurious beige, black or etoupe, or make a statement with the extravagant, eye-popping rose, red, orange or blue hues. Depending on your preference, the Evelyn can fit any role: errands, date night or light travel, making it an excellent first choice.
- 2020 Starting Retail Price: $3,375
3. Hermes Jige Elan Clutch
A beautiful, romantic clutch, the Jige Elan embodies perfection in its small size. Undoubtedly Hermes, the clutch features the signature H leather tab closure. The bag was actually a gift from Jean Guerrand, son-in-law of Emile Hermes, to one of his daughters-in-law, and is named after the creator, Guerrand’s initials, hence the name ‘Jige’.
Caption: Hermes Jige Elan clutch
- Function: The Jige clutch is proof that the best things often come in small packages. It can easily carry your phone and some credit cards - maybe a small wallet if you prioritize. Since it is a clutch there is no handle and it remains in your hands at all times as a wearable accessory.
- Purpose: the perfect complement to your outfit on a night out, an event or romantic dinner. Set it down next to you at the table and watch the compliments pour in. Simple, symmetrical and absolutely gorgeous, the Jige clutch is a must-have Hermes piece.
- 2020 Starting Retail Price: $3,700
4. Hermes Kelly
Perhaps one of the most exquisite Hermes handbags to date, the Kelly is stunningly beautiful and classy. Named after the late actress, fashion icon and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, this bag is as much of a cultural icon as it is a fashion statement, instantly elevating the status of anyone carrying it. Even though it errs on the more expensive side of the Hermes handbag lineup, the Kelly is surprisingly usable and appropriate in several settings.
Coming in two main styles, the boxy, rigid Sellier trim and the more relaxed, casual Retourne trim, the Kelly takes on two different personas. Carry it firmly in your hand, or let it hang from your shoulder with the included strap. The high utility mixed with unmatched quality and signature Hermes leather luxury makes the Kelly everyone’s dream bag.
Caption: Hermes Kelly Sellier and Retourne bags
- Function: The Sellier Kelly is pure luxury contained in a sharp yet elegant silhouette. The Kelly is offered in a multitude of size options, ranging from 15cm all the way up to 50cm, so it’s carrying capacity depends on the size. Being a flap bag, you can fit several items of your choice in it, however we’d caution against carrying any heavy or irregularly shaped objects within your Kelly as it might damage the leather from within (see our Hermes care guide for more details). The Retourne is better suited for carrying your essentials, as its physical qualities mirror that of the Garden Party tote, albeit in a smaller size.
- Purpose: Your Kelly will fit right in at the black-tie event, country club, cocktail party or romantic dinner. It is the ultimate statement piece in your outfit, and will garner gazes and compliments anywhere you go. And while you would be best to limit the mileage on your Kelly to preserve its investment value, keep in mind that Hermes made the bag with special attention to quality and durability, so the Kelly can withstand mindful daily carry.
- 2020 Starting Retail Price: $9,000*
5. Hermes Birkin
We’ve saved the best for last! No handbag even comes close to the Birkin in terms of luxury, quality, status and exclusivity. Like the Kelly, the Birkin was named after a cultural icon: the singer, actress and model Jane Birkin. The Birkin bag is the finest leather product offered by Hermes, with a signature silhouette, solid leather construction and heavy precious metal hardware.
We have devoted entire articles to this amazing handbag, so if you are interested in buying your first Birkin bag, or just want to learn the ins and outs of this iconic handbag, be sure to check out our Birkin Investment Guide, Authenticity Guide and Leather Guide.
Caption: Hermes Shiny Porosus Crocodile Birkin Pink
- Function: The Birkin was designed by then Hermes Creative Director Jean Louis Dumas out of Jane Birkin’s need for a travel bag. By design, the Birkin is sturdy and durable, featuring solid metal feet, or clou for the bag to sit on, as well as locking hardware to keep its contents safe and secure. Of course, the popularity of this bag amongst the mega-rich and celebrities exploded in the 1990s, and Hermes purposely limits Birkin production to this day in 2020 to maintain exclusivity. While you can carry anything you need within the Birkin bag, we advise against using it as a “regular” bag, as it is worth more as an investment and statement piece.
- Purpose: The Birkin is the ultimate fashion statement, bar none. It is at the very top of the dream handbag list, even surpassing the Kelly. It is often seen in the hands of the people like Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities at red carpet events and fancy gatherings. In simpler trims like Togo or Epsom leather, the Birkin can be used, within reason, as a daily carry bag. Otherwise, we prefer to keep and care for it as the crown jewel of any handbag collection.
- 2020 Starting Retail Price: $9,000 - $400,000+*
*Why are Birkin bags so expensive?
Birkins are the finest handbags in existence, and their quantity is intentionally restricted by Hermes. Only around 200,000 are in circulation, and buying one new is nearly impossible. The best place to buy a Birkin is 2020 and likely in the coming years is on the secondary market. In the secondary (a.k.a. resale) market you can have instant access without the wait and be able to choose your favorite size, material and color.
How much does a Birkin bag cost? You can get a Togo or Epsom leather Birkin on the resale market anywhere from $7,000-$18,000 depending on condition. Exotic leather examples, like Porosus crocodile Birkins range anywhere from $20,000-$70,000. Please refer to our Birkin Authenticity Guide for more detailed information regarding materials, price and investment value.