Hermès is the most famous French high fashion house specializing in leather, ready-to-wear, lifestyle accessories, perfumery, and luxury goods. The company is renowned in the fashion world, and its products are considered to be prestigious due to their degree of craftsmanship, reputation, and price. It is recognized by its logo of a Duc carriage with horse.
Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddle shop in Paris, the company has grown internationally yet continues to implement its traditional techniques into its creations.
The Hermès family, originally Protestant Germans, settled in France 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. The company earned acclaim in 1855, winning first prize in its class at the 1855 Paris Exposition.
Hermès son, Charles-Emile Hermes (1835 - 1919),took management from his father, and moved the shop in 1880 to a location near the Palais de l'Elysée at 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It is at this location where the new leader introduced saddlery and began retail sales. With the aid of his sons (Adolphe and Émile-Maurice Hermès), the company catered 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.
After Charles-Emile Hermes retired from the company, his sons Adolphe and Émile-Maurice took leadership and renamed the company Hermès Frères. Shortly after, Émile-Maurice furnished the czar of Russia with saddles. Throughout the 1920s, Émile-Maurice took control as sole head of the business and added new accessory collections. Émile-Maurice groomed his three sons-in-law (Robert Dumas, Jean-René Guerrand and Francis Puech) into business partners. In 1924, Hermès established a presence in the United States.
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 (scarves) were introduced. Featuring a print of white-wigged ladies playing a popular period game, these custom-made accessory 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 as most scarves on market. The company's scarf designers 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. 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. Three years later, in 1949, the first perfume was produced, Eau d'Hermès.
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. 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 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. Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès (son of Robert Dumas-Hermès) became chairman in 1978, concentrating 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. Throughout the 1980s, Dumas strengthened 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.
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).