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ORANGE HERMÈS BAG Add to ...

There are three great commercial colours: the robin's egg blue of Tiffany; the pungent orange of Veuve Clicquot; and the dark orange of Hermès.

If you can match them perfectly, they make exceptional paint colours, imbuing the most suburban rec room with all the verve of Fifth Avenue.

Such was the thinking, obviously, of Jean-Paul Gaultier, the current designer for the Hermès ready-to-wear line, when he turned his attention to that classic of modern design, the Kelly bag.

I treasure my Kelly bag, which was given to me by a brilliant Canadian economist and dear friend, who pulled a thicket of first-class plane stubs, souvenirs from the Davos conference and half-full packs of Rothmans out of it before she bestowed it upon me.

So how could Gaultier -- the fetishy Frenchman best known for those navy-and-white horizontal striped sailor tops (his personal garb of choice), the cone bras he did for Madonna's oversexed period in the early nineties, and for his fixation with the sultry emblems of black Harlem during Prohibition, update the Kelly, probably the most important purse of the 20th century?

He created an Hermès orange version of the ultimate handbag. Genius. The stitching on the side of the bag is visible, and the vibrant piece sets off the crisp, nearly all-white spring/summer collection.

The Kelly, of course, will not be sale-priced. The bag was christened Kelly to hide Princess Grace's bump when she was expecting one of her scandalous brood. There is an international wait list for these gems (the Kelly shown here is alligator, which can run to $20,000, but this season's new elongated Kelly clutch is a mere bagatelle at $4,375). There is also a long line for the fabulous Birkin bag. This last is a tad more casual, created and named for hippie icon Jane Birkin.

So, you can't wait for the Kelly or the Birkin, or perhaps you have some pesky mortgage payments? Toronto designer Jeanne Lottie has an answer for you.

Now, the bag we show here is not Hermès orange (it's red) and it's not a perfect knockoff. (The Lottie folk are sensitive about the word "knockoff" but not as sensitive as the Hermès folk, I suspect; the Kelly has been knocked, ripped and copied, inspiring many imitators over the past five decades.) There is a little padlock (like the real bag), but no strap around the top to be held down with it. And the leather has probably not been sourced from the world's top hideries.

But hit the Bay or the Jeanne Lottie boutique on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto, and you can grab a taste of the Gaultier spirit for $260. I'd still keep pining for the real thing, though. You will not be likely to be yearning to pass on the Lottie knockoff to the next generation.

Some bags are worth waiting for.

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