Inspired by one of the brand’s vintage styles, the new Hermès bag has a backstory that is rooted in transatlantic journeys.
In 1916, Emile-Maurice Hermès traveled across North America, and along the way he met Henry Ford, toured a few dozen automobile factories, and discovered a curious fastening mechanism on the cloth top of a car in Canada. He returned to Paris with a two-year patent for the zipper, confident that this skeletal silver sliding system could be adapted for use on leather goods, hand-luggage, and suitcases. And, in 1923, the French fashion house introduced a carryall with the first zippered compartment replacing the traditional metallic clasps. The motoring bag kept jewelry and other precious belongings safe at high speeds, and as it was shaped like a trapezoid, it could easily be stowed in the trunk of a sports car. The simple yet innovative design would go on to change the course of Hermes’ history.
The sac pour l’auto was later renamed the Bolide, the 16th-century word for meteor—and as the roaring automobile industry took off in the early 20th century, so too did the demand for Hermès’ portable designs. (They quickly went on to create luggage trunks customized to fit on the backs of Bugattis, custom leather wallets for roadmaps, driving gloves, and even silk racing scarves.) It was a call to travel and escape: as the practical and elegant Bolide design was soon adopted by customers for their travels by car, train, and transatlantic ocean liners, so began Hermès’ rich history of being synonymous with speed and elegance in motion. “All of the Hermès classics are made with mobility in mind,” says Caitlin Donovan, a handbag specialist at Christie’s New York. “The iconic Birkin was created because Jane Birkin was on an airplane complaining about how she wanted a purse with pockets that would also fit underneath her seat, while the sac-mallette, or Bolide Macpherson, came with a lockable case for keeping jewelry safe and hidden while traveling.”
In 1982, the Bolide was introduced in handbag size, equipped with a removable leather shoulder strap and a padlock with its clochette. The new Bolide Secret (shown here above) takes inspiration from the original 1923 design, and its ingenious zippered compartment is still perfect for stashing passports or jewelry while on the road today.
(The Bolide Secret in Matte Crocodile is available at hermes.com; price upon request.)
Editorial: Conde Nast Traveler Photo: Philippe Lacombe