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About Hermes

Hermès International, S.A., or simply Hermès , American English, typical British English, is a French high fashion house specializing in leather, ready-to-wear, lifestyle accessories, and perfumery luxury goods. The company is highly renowned in the fashion world, along with other exclusive fashion houses, and it's recognized by its duc carriage with horse logo.

First established in 1837, the saddle shop of Thiery Hermès in Paris, France quickly became an international success. Hermès continues to implement its traditional techniques into its creations. Recognized clientele of Hermès include: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Elle McPherson, Elizabeth Hurley, and Madonna.

Hermès' competitors include Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior.


Those outfitted by the company to some extent include: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Sammy Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve, and Grace Kelly.

Designers throughout the company's history include Lola Prusac, Jacques Delahaye, Catherine de Karolyi, Monsieur Levaillant, Nicole de Vesian, Eric Bergere, Claude Brouet, Tan Giudicelli, Marc Audibet, Veronique Nichanian and Mariot Chane.

Beginnings in the 19th century

Thierry Hermès, founder of Hermès.
Thierry Hermès, founder of Hermès.

The Hermès family, originally Protestant Germans, settled in Paris in 1828. In 1837, Thierry Hermès (1801 - 1878) first established Hermès as a harness workshop (on the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris) dedicated to purveying to European noblemen. It goal was to create the finest wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade.  Coronations were sometimes postponed for years until Hermès could create original carriage designs, or so it is rumored. The company was earning accolades as early as 1855, winning first prize in its class at the 1855 Paris Exposition. Monsieur Hermès won the First Class Medal of the 1867 Exposition Universelle as well.

Hermès son, Charles-Emile Hermes (1835 - 1919),  took management from his father, and, in 1880, moved the shop to a location near the Palais de l'Elysée at 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It is in this location in which the new leader introduced saddlery and began retail sales.  With the aid of his sons (Adolphe and Émile-Maurice Hermès), the company became purveyors to the elite of Europe, North Africa, Russia, Asia, and the Americas. In 1900, the company offered the haut à courroies bag specially designed so that riders could carry their saddles with them.

Hermès Frères era

After Charles-Emile Hermes retired from the company, his sons Adolphe and Émile-Maurice (grandsons of the original Hermès) took leadership and renamed the company Hermès Frères. Soon, Émile-Maurice purveyed the czar of Russia saddles. By 1914, up to 80 saddle craftsmen became employed under the company. Émile-Maurice obtained, soon afterwards, exclusive rights to the use of the zipper for leather goods and clothing: He thus became the first to introduce the device in France. The first leather golf jacket with zipper, made by Hermès, was introduced in 1918.

Throughout the 1920s, Émile-Maurice remained as sole head of the business and added new accessories collections. Maintaining family ties, Émile-Maurice nurtured his three sons-in-law (Robert Dumas, Jean-René Guerrand and Francis Puech) into business partners. Soon, Hermès introduced the first leather garment, a zippered golfing jacket for the Prince of Wales. After its exclusive use of the zipper, the mechanism was nicknamed fermature Hermès. In 1922, the first leather handbags were introduced. Émile-Maurice's wife complained of not finding a suitable one to her liking, and so her husband took over the job. Soon to follow are an array of handbags in diverse colors, sizes, and styles. In 1924, Hermès established a presence in the United States, and opened two shops in prominent French resorts. The company had gained such great reputation by this point that it became common knowledge that visitors to France would surely stop at Hermès. In 1929, the first women's couture apparel collection was previewed in Paris.

During the 1930s, Hermès produced some of its most recognized original goods. In 1935, the leather Sac à dépêches (later to be renamed as the "Kelly Bag") was introduced, and, later in 1937, the Hermès carré (or scarves) were introduced. Featuring a print of white-wigged ladies playing a popular period game, these custom-made accessories scarves were named Jeu des Ombinus et Dames Blanches. Hermès oversaw the production of its scarves from beginning till end: purchasing raw Chinese silk, spinning it into yarn, and weaving it into fabric twice as strong and heavy than most scarves on market. The company's scarf designers would spent years creating new prints (individually screen-printed with vegetable dye). Each added color would be allowed a month to dry during the process of its creation before the next was applied. Designers were given the option of choosing from over 200,000 different colors, with the most complicated design featuring 40 colors. In 1937 a dedicated scarf factory was established in Lyon, France.

Following the introduction of the scarves, the accessory became integrated into French culture. The same year, Hermès celebrated its 100th anniversairy. In 1938, the Chaîne d’ancre bracelet and the riding jacket and outfit joined the classic collection. By this point, the company's designers began to draw inspirations from paintings, books, and objets d’art. The 1930s also witnessed Hermès' entrance into the U.S. market by offering its products in a Neiman Marcus department store in New York: However, it later withdrew. 1946 saw the launch of the Hermès silk ties. Three years later, in 1949, the first perfume was produced, Eau d'Hermès.

During sometime in his management, Émile-Maurice summarized the Hermès philosophy as “Leather, sport, and a tradition of refined elegance.”


Robert Dumas-Hermès (1898 - 1978) succeeded Émile-Maurice after his death in 1951, working in close collaboration with brother-in-law Jean-René Guerrand. Technically, Dumas became the first man not directly descended from Hermès père to lead the company (he was connected to the family by marriage). Thus, he incorporated the Hermès last name into his own, Dumas-Hermès. The company also acquired its duc carriage with horse logo and signature orange boxes in the early 50s. Dumas created original handbags, jewelry, and accessories. He was particularly interested in design possibilities with the silk scarves. Ironically, during the mid-20th century, scarf production slackened. World Tempus states that, "Brought to life by the magic wand of Annie Beaumel, the windows of the store on Faubourg Saint-Honoré became a theatre of enchantment and a Parisian meeting-place for international celebrities." In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly (the new Princess of Monaco) carrying the Sac à dépêches bag appeared in Life: The company renamed it the "Kelly Bag," and became hugely popular. By the late 1950s, the Hermès logo reaches renown status.

In the 1960s, Hermès re-entered the U.S. market by offering its silk ties at Neiman Marcus department stores. Chrystler Fisher, a former executive at Newman Marcus, oversaw the Hermès American operations, tailoring to customers via a toll-free number, customers' service department, and direct mail. The perfume business is made subsidiary in 1961 concurrently with the introduction of the Calèche perfume (named after the Hermès logo).

The falter of Hermès and revival by Jean-Louis

In the 1970s, Hermès opened multiple locations all over Europe, the United States, and Japan. However, despite the company's apparent success, Hermès began to fall back throughout the 1970s in comparison to other competitors. This was duly because Hermès aimed to use only natural materials for its products, unlike other companies that strived to produce fashions of new man-made materials. During a two-week lapse in orders, the Hermès workrooms fell in silence. The House formed itself as a holding company in 1976 and continued expansion worldwide. Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès (son of Robert Dumas-Hermès) became chairman in 1978, revamping stimulus in the areas of silk, leather, and ready-to-wear (adding new product groups to those made with its traditional techniques). Unlike his father, Jean-Louis was connected to the Hermès maternally. The new leader of Hermès also traveled worldwide extensively. Jean-Louis implemented his experiences as a buyer for Bloomingdale's to aid the ailing company by turning around its downhill progression. Dumas brought in designers Eric Bergére and Bernard Sanz to revamp the apparel collection, and, in collaboration, added unusual entries. Such were the python motorcycle jackets and ostrich-skin jeans, which were dubbed as "a snazzier version of what Hermès has been all along". Annual sales in 1978 were reported at $50 Million USD. In 1979, Hermès launched an advertisement campaign featuring a young, denim-clad woman wearing an Hermès scarf. The purpose was to introduce the Hermès brand to a new set of consumers. As one absorber noticed, "Much of what bears the still-discreet Hermès label changed from the object of an old person's nostalgia to the subject of young peoples' dreams." Also in the 1970s, the subsidiary Le Montre Hermès was established in Biel, Switzerland.

Throughout the 1980s, Dumas strengthen the company's hold on its suppliers. Thus, Hermès gained great stakes in prominent French glassware, silverware, and tableware manufacturers as Puiforcat, St. Louis, and Perigord..The company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1987 by "affirming its unique identity as a company both industrial and traditional, multi-sited and Parisian, traditional and innovative, and founded on a constant striving for excellence." By now women sporting Hermès carried the Kelly bag, Constance clutch, brightly colored leathers, sensuous cashmeres, bold jewelry, tri-colored spectator shoes and silk ballet slippers. For men, the brand made leather jackets with sherpa lining and trim, gabardine blazers and dashing greatcoats, and richly patterned silk ties.

Hermès becomes more successful than ever

By 1990, annual sales were reported at a profit of $460 million USD. The dramatic rise in revenue mainy attributed to Dimas' strategic, continuously successful plans. Fifty percent of sales in the early 1990s generated from Europe despite Dumas' intense program of geographical expansion. The United States contributed 11 percent, while the Asian/Pacific region made up one-third of sales. Indeed, sales skyrocketed with an estimated increase of 23 percent from 1984 to 1994. However, future profits were expected to rise only in single-digit percentages.

Tactics from the 1980s made tableware one of Hermès' most promising business subsidiaries for the 1990s. The collection of Hermès goods was expanded in 1990 to include over 30,000 pieces. New materials used in the collection included porcelain and crystal.  The company also took to releasing two new scarf collections each year throughout the 1990s, some of which were limited designs including The Road (1994) and The Sun(1995)). Hermès relocated its workshops and design studios to Pantin (in the outskirts of France) in a spacious modern glass building in 1992. By June 1993, Hermès went public on the Stock exchange. The equity sale generated more excitement than the semiannual sales at Hermès's flagship store: the 425,000 shares floated at FFr 300 (US$55) each were oversubscribed by 34 times. Dumas told Forbes magazine that the equity sale helped lessen family tensions by allowing some members to liquidate their holdings without "squabbling over share valuations among themselves." During that year, Fisher resigned from his position as head of operations for U.S. business in Hermès and was succeeded by a sixth-generation Hermès descendant Laurent Mommeja, who promised to double U.S. company sales by 1998. Shares were trading at FFr 600, by 1995.

To this point, the Hermès family still kept strong hold of about 80 percent in stocks, placing Jean-Louis Dumas and the entire family on the Forbes list of billionaires. Mimi Tompkins of U.S. News & World Report called the company "one of Paris' best guarded jewels." In the next years to follow, Dumas began to decrease Hermès franchises from 250 to 200 and increased company owned stores from 60 to 100 to better control sales of its products. The plan was to cost about FFr 200 million in the short-term, but to increase profits in the long-term. Having around FFr 500 million to invest, Hermès continued ahead, targeting China for company-operated boutiques and finally opening a store in Beijing in 1996. Belgian modernist designer Martin Margiela was brought into the House to supervise women's ready-to-wear soon afterwards. By the late 1990s, Hermès continued to extensively diminish the number of franchised stores, buying up those including in Marseilles, Padua, and Berlin, and opening further more company operated boutiques (among them in Las Vegas and Atlanta). Fashion eyebrows were raised in September 1999 when Hermès paid FFr 150 million for a 35 percent stake in the Jean-Paul Gaultier fashion house. Greeted nonetheless as a positive development both for the relatively small Gaultier group and for Hermès, it was seen as part of a consolidation in the luxury goods market. Over the late dacades of the 1900s, the company also encouraged their clientele to faites nous rêver (make us dream), creating throughout the time some of the most artistically atypical orders.

From the 2000s through today

In 2000, the Hermès boutique on Madison Avenue opened, as well as four stores in Lisbon, Santiago, Barcelona, and Taiwan. The first John Lobb footwear store was also opened that year in New York. During this time, the company renovated its Ginza, Tokyo location and opened a branch in Moscow. In 2003, Margiela retired from Hermès as head designer and so Jean-Paul Gaultier joined in the House (debuting his first collection for Fall/Winter 2004-05).Afterwards, Jean Claude Ellena came in as the in-House perfumer, launching the successful Hermessence scent. After twenty-eight years of leadership, Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes, the fifth generation Hermès leader, finally retired from his family's company in January 2006. Patrick Thomas, who joined the company in 1989 and who worked with Jean-Louis as co-CEO since 2005, replaced him that month. He became the first non-Hermès to helm the company. Thomas expressed an interest in continuing 10 percent increase in annum sales and 15 percent profit growth. Revenue for 2006 is reported at  €1,514,900 thousand Euros ($2,406,059.80 thousand USD). In 2007, 630 new staff members joined the company, escalating its employee count to 7,455. In 1st half of 2008 Hermès opened a boutique In New Delhi, India. Throughout 2008, Hermès will continue to open and renovate some 40 boutiques in the United States, Asia, and particularly China.

Hermès today


As of 2008, Hermès has 14 product divisions encompassing leather, scarves, ties, menswear, women's fashion, perfume, watches, stationery, footwear, gloves, enamel, art of living, tableware, and jewelry. The use of high-quality materials and appraised thandcraftsmanship drives the price points for Hermès merchandise well into high figures. Examples include an Hermès scarf for $355 USD, a tie for $165 USD, and a Kelly purse for $3,500 USD. Fashion Model Directory states the Hermès look as "the height of luxury with a nod to the house’s equestrian heritage."

Professional craftsmanship, originated from the creation of meticulous leather saddles, has been spread into every branch of product making, company-wide. General Hermès sales are made up of around 30 percent leather goods, 15 percent clothes, and 12 percent scarves.  The company has never licensed any of its products, but keeps a tight control over the design and manufacture of its vast range of goods.  Every Hermès leather bound datebook, porcelain teapot, silk waistcoat, and custom saddle is made under the company name.

The brand also offers office accessories and baby gifts.

Hermès silk


One of Hermès' most recognized products today remains its signature silk scarves. The modern Hermès scarf measures 90cm2, weighs 65 grams and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons. All Hermès scarves are hand-printed using multiple silk screens and the hems are all hand-stitched. Forty-three is the highest number of screens used for one scarf to date (the charity scarf released in 2006), one screen for each color on the scarf. Scarf motives are known to range from germane (the French Revolution, French Cuisine) to the unexpected (such as the flora and fauna of Texas). However, many generally feature equestrian motifs, as well as other symbols of prestige, like coats of arms, banners, and military insignia.  Two scarf collections per year are released, along with re-prints of older designs and limited editions. Since 1937, Hermès has produced over 2,500 designs, with the horse motif ones being particularly famous and popular. Production of scarves has ranged from 250,000 in 1978, to 500,000 in 1986, to 1.2 million in 1989. During the holiday season, in the Paris locations, one scarf is sold at a rate of about 20 seconds.

The per-pound cost of a scarf today is approximately $1,965.00 USD (compared to a pound of steel at $0.19). New scarves retail at $355 USD and still account for a significant percentage of Hermès’s turnover. Hermes also markets two collections a year of cashmere/silk blend scarves, which are priced as of Spring 2008 from $550 to $950 USD.

The company's scarves are very popular. Some find themselves even made into pillows or otherwise as framed wall-hangings. Famous lovers of the Hermès scarf include Queen Elizabeth II (who wore one in a portrait for a British postage stamp in the 1950s), Grace Kelly (who used an Hermès scarf as a sling for her broken arm), Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, and Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. More recently, Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Mariah Carey, Elle McPherson, and Madonna have all been photographed wearing the scarves. Notoriously, Stone used one for a bondage scene in the film Basic Instinct.


In addition to silk scarves, men's neckties are made out of the same silks. Hermès neckties cost between $165 and $215 USD,

Partnership with the Tuareg

For years Hermès has partnered with Tuareg tribesmen on silver jewelry. The famous Saharan nomads' traditional motifs are often imitated by various Hermès products, including some of the French company's trademark scarves.


Hermès is also highly recognized for its handmade luggage and handbag collections. Hermès does not use assembly lines; only one craftsman may work on one handbag at a time. Due to the labour-intensive nature of Hermès production methods and the use of rare materials (sometimes including exotic skins as well as precious metals), one bag can take 18 to 24 hours to create. The construction of each Kelly bag, for example, required 18 hours of work by a single artisan. Used for all Hermès leathercrafting, the finest leather animal skins reside in the leather storage facility in Paris. Such leathers include those of alligator from Florida, buffalo from Pakistan, crocodile from Australia, shark from Thailand, lizard from Malaysia, and oxen, deer, calf, goat, and ostrich from all over the world. The leathers are professionally treated (dyed in every color, pattern, and texture imaginable) and handcrafted into stylish accessories in the end. When Hermès leather goods require repair, owners are encouraged to bring the item back to any Hermès store where it can be shipped to the factory in Paris for repair or reconditioning.

Bags made popular through high-profile clientele include the "Kelly Bag", named after Grace Kelly for her many appearances with it (first introduced in the 1930s, see history), and the Constance shoulder bag (with a double strap and large H clasp) and the Trim shoulder bag preferred by Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. Both Kelly and Constance bags remain in consistent demand and there is generally a one year waiting list for these bags.

Another famous handbag, the Birkin, was named for actress Jane Birkin, who co-designed the bag with company president Jean-Louis Dumas after complaining that her Kelly bag was not practical for everyday use. Jane Birkin has since stopped carrying her namesake bag, saying it contributed to her tendinitis. The bag remains among the most requested and has the strongest waiting list of any other luxury Hermès good. The wait for a special order Birkin can be up to six years, based on the type of leather or skin requested. The price of a Birkin bag in general begins in the $6,000 USD range and can sometimes reach into 5-digit (e.g. $10,000), or even 6-digit (e.g. $100,000) figures. More recently, the Birkin bag has been featured in television shows such as Sex and the City, Will & Grace and Girlfriends, as well as on the arms of well-heeled celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Coleen McLoughlin, Alex Curran, Kate Moss, Martha Stewart and Jada Pinkett Smith.


Hermès started its fragrance line in 1951. Over the past 57 years, the company has created several fragrances for both men and women. Women's fragrances include the newly created Kelly Calèche, Eau de Marveilles, 24 Faubourg, Calèche, Rouge Hermès, Hiris, Parfum d'Hermes and Amazone. Men's fragrances include: Terre D'Hermès, Rocabar, Equipage, and Bel Ami. Fragrances that are made for both men and women are: Eau d'Orange Verte, Un Jardin sur le Nil, Un Jardin en Mediterranee, Eau D'Hermès, and Hermessence which is only sold in certain Hermès stores.

Shop Locations

Hermès boutiques are located worldwide in upscale locations. The image of the stores, however, most integrate with a respect of the culture in the location.

By 2007, Hermes had these boutiques in the United States alone:

* New York
* Beverly Hills
* Boston
* Aspen
* Chicago
* San Francisco
* Westport, CT
* Americana Manhasset
* Bal Harbour

* Palm Beach
* Naples
* South Coast Plaza
* Dallas
* Houston
* Troy, Michigan
* Chagrin Falls, Ohio
* Palo Alto, CA

* Atlanta
* Charlotte
* King of Prussia
* Vienna, Virginia
* Las Vegas
* Honolulu at the Ala Moana Center
* Waikiki

Plans for future Hermès boutique locations include: Natick Collection ( 2008 ), Denver ( 2008 ), Broomfield ( 2009 ), and Scottsdale ( 2009 ).

Hermès also anticipates the opening of its first boutique in India in New Delhi.

Oprah Winfrey controversy

In June 14, 2005, Oprah Winfrey was denied access to the company's flagship store in Paris (15 minutes after closing hours). The New York Daily News cited that she was first turned away by a clerk and then a store manager. Winfrey wanted to purchase a watch for singer Tina Turner, with whom she would be having dinner later that evening. However, the store told her the it was only open for a public relations event. On its Monday page, the New York Post reported that the she was turned away because the store was "having a problem with North Africans lately." However, Winfrey later denied this particular statement, saying "there was never any discussion of North Africans...The story is not true." A Hermès spokeswoman stated that the security guard informed her of the stores closing, providing her with a card, and told her she would have to come back the next day. Furthermore, the spokeswoman added that the surveillance videotape of the incident supports the store's account and the CEO of Hermès contacted Winfrey, welcoming her to shop at the flagship again.

A spokesperson for Harpo Productions said that Winfrey would be talking about her "Crash moment" when her show would return in September 2005. CNN cited that the phrase 'crash moment' refers to situations where a party feels discriminated against on the basis of skin color."

Half-way during the Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey stated, "I just want to say shame on anybody for thinking that I was upset for not being able to get into a clothes store and buy a purse. Please, please. Everybody who's ever been snubbed because you were not chic enough or the right class or the right color or whatever — I don't know what it was — you know that that is very humiliating and that is exactly what happened to me." The CEO of Hermès USA was a guest on the show and stated, "I would like to say we're really sorry. You did meet up with one very, very rigid staff person." She asked, "Rigid...or rude?" Chavez responded, "Rigid and rude, I'm sure." Winfrey said that she recognized the "difference between the store being closed and the store being closed to me", and that she was not in any way playing the "celebrity card".

Hermès in pop culture

Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (June 2008)

TV Shows:

* In the Sex and the City episode "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda", Samantha Jones drops Lucy Liu's name to move up the waitlist for her Birkin bag.
* Wilhemina receives an Hermès scarf from Alexis in the Ugly Betty episode "Icing on the Cake", which she treats with great disdain.
* In CW's show Gilmore Girls, Rory receives a Birkin bag as a gift.
* The Birkin bag is featured in the Will & Grace episode "Last Ex To Brooklyn" in Season 6.
* In Girlfriends, Toni Childs purchases both the Birkin and Kelly bags after discovering that her plastic surgeon husband is in debt.


* The Hermès silk scarf was mentioned in the book The Devil Wears Prada, and also in the 2006 movie based on the book starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. In the book, Miranda Priestly wears white Hermès scarves with nearly every outfit and leaves them everywhere she goes, then demands more of them, believing that they are easily replaceable. In the movie, Miranda is rarely seen wearing a scarf, but her first assistant is seen walking out of the New York store carrying numerous orange Hermès shopping bags and then getting hit by a cab with the scarves flying in the air as a result..A similar stack of signature orange boxes is seen in Miranda's hotel room in Paris.
* In the movie The Princess Diaries when Mia (Anne Hathaway) is being taught correct posture by her 'Grandmère' (Julie Andrews), Grandmère uses Hermés scarves to hold Mia's shoulders back against a chair, promping Mia to say that she didn't know it was a custom in Genovia to "imprison one's dinner guests with Hermès (which she pronounces her-mees) scarves." Grandmère corrects her pronunciation.
* In the Japanese movie and TV series Densha Otoko, a set of teacups with the Hermès logo is given as a gift that led to the union of the two main characters.
* A Kelly Bag plays an important role in the film Le Divorce.
* The Hermès silk scarf was mentioned by name as the object used to tie down a murdered victim on bed in the film Basic Instinct.
* In Jean Luc Godard's film Weekend, a lady assumes that her Hermès bag has burned from a car accident.


* The Hermès briefcase is mentioned in the song Upgrade U by R&B artist Beyoncé featuring Jay Z.
* The Birkin Bag is mentioned in the book Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger.
* Hip-Hop artist Fat Joe refers to buying Hermès products for a significant other in "I Won't Tell".

source: wikipedia 


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