It was in 1922 when Hermès produced its first line of handbags, a smaller version of the Haute à Courroies. The first leather handbag was introduced by Emile Maurice who used his patented zipper in the design.
Hermès is known to produce leather goods that are handmade by expert artisans in France, using the company’s signature saddle stitching, developed in the 1800s. The signature has been visualised over the years in the designs, still loved by many today.
For Hermès vintage enthusiasts, it is known that the leather used for the bags during the early days was the Box leather. This is the oldest type of Hermès leather and frequently appears in Vintage Kellys or belts. The name originates from an English shoe craftsman in the 1890s, Joseph Box.
Amongst the different type of leather used, arguably the best leather seen in Hermès vintage bags is Vachette Grainee des Ardennes or Ardennes leather. The leather is a processed pressed leather crafted from a male calf raised in the Ardenne region (Northern France to Southern Belgium). The first Kelly in Ardennes leather was produced in between the late 1970s to early 1980s.
This rare leather is extremely sturdy and holds its shape perfectly well, featuring thick pressed grains and a slight sheen. Vache Ardennes is thick and structured, it does not slouch and is water and scratch resistant. Unlike Clemence, the grains are slightly raised, hence Ardennes not having the “softness” to touch.
Why is it a favourite leather still? Many Hermès collectors consider this a workhorse leather that can and will stand the test of time. Even if the dye is known to fade overtime, many don’t mind due to it is scratch resistance and the not-to-shiny surface, just a touch of sheen to it. The leather is lighter and less textured than the Togo.
Ardennes is loved by many and still highly sought-after, even after all this years. It is very hard to find and is no longer in production. Hermés stopped production of this leather in 2003-2004, due to unconfirmed reasons. Vache Liegee which is similar in texture and structure, replaced Ardennes leather.
Released in 2004, the Vache Liegee is the thickest and most durable of Hermès’ leathers released following the discontinued Ardennes. It’s a cowhide containing lustre known for its processed press, natural grained leather that is stiff and durable. The leather is stretched in 8 different directions and has a two-tone effect in the grain and has a slight sheen and lustre, similar to Ardennes. Vache Liegee is developed mainly for bags in limited colours.
Still longing for the ever-beautiful ardennes leather? You’re in luck!
HauteRobe has the Hermès Vintage 1995 Kelly 32 in the very rare blue sapphire! Tried-and-true, this Blue Sapphire is the Hermès perfect blue colour. It’s a good rich blue; not too bright and not too dark. See this rare gem only at HauteRobe!
Ardennes is a region in southeast Belgium that extends into Luxembourg, Germany and France. Once the scene of fierce battles in both World Wars, its rugged terrain encompasses rolling valleys, meandering rivers, extensive caves and dense forests crisscrossed with hiking paths. Those same valleys and rivers yield game, ham, trout and pike that are renowned throughout Belgium.