Kelly, the heart-stopper

When I discovered the Kelly watch by Hermès, my imagination took flight. Sometimes it uses an object as a springboard and flies off to who knows where to invent a story. Luckily, when it comes back, it tells me the tale and I put it down on paper, or rather on my computer. Here’s the latest… Isabelle Cerboneschi. Photographies et style: Buonomo & Cometti

It’s the story of a heart that let itself be taken. My heart. I had promised myself I would never let a man take it again. At least for a while. It was so simple: all I had to do was put it safely in a safe, invent a combination of numbers I couldn’t remember, close the door and forget the safe, the code, the heart. Except that life threw Louis in my way…

If there’s anyone to blame in this story, it’s the lawyer who employs me. Not content with being a brilliant man who writes books on logic and law that are praised by the critics and especially by those who haven’t managed to get past the first chapter (I’m one of them), he’s playing the saxophone divinely. Yes, I admire him, but it’s purely professional.

That evening, I had come to hear him play with my girlfriend Emma. I was making my way through the crowd to join her with my two Pisco Sours when a man took a false step, lost his balance and instead of dropping to the ground as he should have done, he caught hold of my arm. At the end of my arm were two glasses filled with cocktails. The impact of the two Pisco Sours elegantly waltzed through the air like a Peruvian water jet and chose his abundant chestnut hair as the landing strip.

My unwitting attacker, transformed into Aquaman with lime, opened and closed his mouth but the words that came out were largely covered by the melodies of the jazz band that had started his session. I could have got angry and left him there to join Emma, but something held me back. That something was his big Bambi eyelashes stuck to the cane syrup that beat the air as he spoke to me.

I charitably put my ear close to his mouth and heard him tell me that he was sorry (the least he could do), that he was extremely clumsy (I’d noticed), and that he would very much like to see me again under different circumstances to make amends (I wasn’t expecting that one). And then he added: “By the way, my name is Louis. He handed me his business card, asked the barman for a tea towel to wipe himself vaguely and left with his head held high and his hair sticky.

If you want to know how the concert went, I’d tell you it was great, because my boss is great, but my head was elsewhere: in my pocket, with Louis’s card. It took me three days to leave a message on his mobile. I rewrote it a hundred times. I didn’t know how to go about it. Should I remind him that I was the girl who sprayed him? Maybe not. I simply wrote that we’d met at a jazz concert and that we could meet up again, why not? He replied ‘Yes’. We met again, then again, then again…

For our first date, we chose the Bonbonnière chocolate bar in Rive. The risk of spilling my hot chocolate in his lap was really minimal: one table separated us. That day, I decided to carry my grandmother’s Kelly bag. It’s worn to a frazzle, and the handle is in danger of dismenteling in my hand at any moment, but I love it as dearly as I loved her. I feel stronger when I’m wearing it, probably because I can picture my grandmother behind my shoulder, saying softly: « He looks like a very good boy, my darling!

When I arrived, he stood up elegantly, waiting for me to sit down, and I saw his gaze settle on my bag. There was no judgement in his eyes, just amused curiosity. So I went ahead and explained to him the whole history of this model that my grandmother had told me so many times. When she was young, she was a real beauty. Before she married my grandfather and followed him to Geneva, she was a saleswoman for Hermès in the famous boutique at 24 Faubourg in Paris. In fact, that’s where they met. She loved to tell me the stories behind the clothes and accessories she sometimes gave me. This bag,” she told me, “has a noble lineage. Its ancestor was called the Haut à Courroies. It was the first bag created by Hermès, and was launched in 1892.

I explained to Louis that this object had originally been designed so that riders could slip their boots and saddle into it. In 1935, Robert Dumas, the company’s CEO, decided to revisit its shape, reduce its size and add a shoulder strap to adapt it to female customers. The accessory was dubbed the “Ladies Travel Bag with Strap”. But all it took was one photo, published in Life magazine in 1956, to change its destiny. It showed the Princess of Monaco in the company of her husband, Prince Rainier. In order to conceal the first curves of her pregnancy, she was holding in front of her belly the famous “ladies’ travel bag with strap” that she had received on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s film “To Catch a Thief”, to complete her acting wardrobe. That day, like an unwitting influencer before her time, Grace of Monaco launched a fashion trend that has never ended.

Following her publication, women who could afford it wanted the same bag as the princess. They would walk into Hermès and ask for “the Kelly bag”. The name came into use and in 1977, the item was officially renamed “the Kelly“. My grandmother’s bag also dates from the mid-1950s. A venerable old thing that is very dear to me. At the end of my story, Louis told me how much he loved objects with a soul and admitted that he spent a lot of his spare time hunting for furniture with a history. I forgot to mention that he’s an architect.

So our first meeting was all about the past. The objects we loved helped us to tell our stories. You don’t choose an object by chance. It’s the result of our culture, a particular taste, the relationship we have with the person who gave it to us, and sometimes fashion too. Louis and I had a taste for old and beautiful things. We were convinced that knowledge of what came before us is necessary to understand what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow.

As the months went by, I discovered that nothing with Louis ever went the way I imagined. He would arrange secret meetings for me, he would text me at 11.30am to ask me to wait for him at noon outside the law firm where I worked, and I would see him arrive at exactly the right time in a yellow Citroën 2 CV to abduct me for lunch on the grass in the Grange park. Going on holiday with him is a real treasure hunt. He distils clues a month before departure and if I’m lucky, I manage to avoid his traps, solve his riddles and discover that we’re going to Mauritius to celebrate Christmas and not to Iceland as I expected. So I pack my suitcase with peace of mind: half a travel bag full of swimming costumes, sandals and light dresses instead of a cabin trunk full of down jackets, survival blankets, Inuit boots and 28 ply cashmere roll-neck jumpers.

For my birthday, which is in November, he gave me a Kelly bag (in much better condition than mine) that he’d found at an auction. It’s the colour I was dreaming of: Rouge H.

All Kellys are sold with a padlock set in a leather case. I didn’t pay much attention to this little accessory straight away. It wasn’t until I’d unpacked the bag, hung up the shoulder strap, looked inside, discovered a note in one of the inside pockets, read the message ‘Open the door! “It was only after I’d jumped on his neck three times and kissed him ten times more that I noticed a small anomaly: the steel padlock told the time! Attached to this adorable Hermès watch, simply named Kelly, was a key that was far too big to open anything that might have been in the orange box on the bed. I looked at the key, I looked at Louis and he said to me: “Now that you have the key to my house and to my heart, I’d like you to move into my flat and into my life.”

The rest of the story has yet to be written, but it will remain between him and me…