Hermès. Photo: Barnebys.fr. Hermès. Photo: Barnebys.fr.

Our first client is the horse, the second is the rider” – Jean Louis Dumas

Hermès hasn’t always been the fashion house as we know it today, as it initially manufactured horse riding harnesses. Thierry Hermès started his career as an apprentice at a small saddler-harness manufacturer in Pont-Audemer in Normandie. In 1837, he packed his bags and moved to Paris to start his own company, specialising in saddles, harnesses and other leather goods for horses.

Thierry Hermès. Photo: Luxurylaunches.com. Thierry Hermès. Photo: Luxurylaunches.com.

During the second half of the 19th century, the company fell into the hands of Thierry’s grandson, Emile-Maurice Hermès. Emile-Maurice expanded the inventory to include turnouts and brushing boots. In the early 20th century, Hermès created it’s first, bag-like good – a container meant to hold rider’s equipment such as boots or a saddle. The product was highly appreciated, and by some customers, it was also used as a carpet bag.

Today, Hermès is a far more successful company than it was during the 19th century when it was led by Emile-Maurice Hermès, but he is still considered both the brain and the spirit behind the luxury brand. Though Hermès represents a rather conservative lifestyle, the brand has always progressed side by side with societal changes.

For example, when the use of automobiles really took off, Hermès was quick to adjust by exploring the car luggage market.

A fashionable development

During the 1920s, Hermès had somewhat of a direction change when the company started manufacturing women’s and men’s fashion. Watches, jewellery, sports equipment and furnishings found its way into the Hermès inventory. It was with this breakthrough that the brand established itself as the luxury brand we recognise it today.

Lola Prusac. Photo via: Barnebys.fr. Lola Prusac. Photo via: Barnebys.fr.

In 1929, the stylist Lola Prusac was hired and started working for the company. This would later prove itself to be a vital recruitment for Hermès, as Prusac introduced the first silk scarf and thus, fashion history was made. Prusac stayed with Hermès until 1933, and among her many achievements was a collection of handbags inspired by the works of Piet Mondrian.

Silk Scarf by Hermès. Photo: Hermès.com. Silk Scarf by Hermès. Photo: Hermès.com.

During the following years, Thierry’s heirs managed the good name Hermès. Design icons like the Kelly Bag and their silk scarfs put the company on the fashion map and soon, Hermès was on everyone’s lips, as well as in their closets.

Hermès conquers the world

In 1947, Hermès included fragrances to their repertoire and launched the scent Eau d’Hermès. Today, the fragrance is a timeless classic and is used by women across the world.

L'Eau d'Hermes. Photo: Olfactics. L'Eau d'Hermes. Photo: Olfactics.

In 1978, the French businessman Jean-Louis Dumas was appointed the chairman of Hermès and carried the company onward with great innovation and enthusiasm. He had been with the company from 1964 and was the son of one of Émile-Maurice Hermès' four daughters.

Leather and silk were the company’s most used materials, which worked well for the Prêt-a-Porter designs that, unlike Haute Couture aren’t made to order but can be bought and used right off the rack. One of the most essential parts of this adaptation to modern everyday life was the Birkin Bag, one of Hermés all time bestsellers.

In fact, the origin of the Birkin Bag was one of total coincidence. The bag is a product of a unplanned meeting between the style icon Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas during a flight between Paris and London in 1981. During the flight, Birkin and Dumas found themselves agreeing on the difficulty for young mothers to find a bag that was both chic, spacious and practical at once. Dumas asked Birkin to draw her ideal bag on a piece of paper, and the rest is history.

Jane Birkin with the bag named after her. Photo: Luxuo. Jane Birkin with the bag named after her. Photo: Luxuo.

Dumas kept the drawing, and soon Hermès created the iconic Birkin Bag. The bag is the first to be named after a celebrity and is to this day produced by the same artisan as in the 1980’s.

Curious about the Birkin Bag? Check them out here.

Jean-Louis Dumas. Photo: Artero Library. Jean-Louis Dumas. Photo: Artero Library.

The model comes in four sizes and the buyer has a choice of around 50 different colours and materials. The bag, which sprang from a conversation between two friends is coveted by collectors and fashionistas alike. The great interest has made the bag hard to find, and the price has tripled as the demand is far greater than the supply. The record for a Birkin Bag on auction was met in September 2017, when a Himalaya Birkin Bag sold for $380,000.

The record-breaking Birkin Bag that was sold at Christie's during 2017. Photo: Christies.com. The record-breaking Birkin Bag that was sold at Christie's during 2017. Photo: Christies.com.

The brand’s popularity has continued to increase in Asia, the US and Europe. Despite the fact that many years have passed since its inception, the company holds the visions and traditions of its founder Thierry Hermès, and as a result, the brand Hermès is still the top in French luxury goods.

Find more amazing pieces by Hermès here!