Hermès: Tradition and Innovation

The Hermès story has always been one of innovation, yet it is tradition and confidence in their products that has kept the house successful over its 184 year history. The Hermès horse and carriage logo is testament to this; created by Robert Dumas-Hermès in the 1920s, it still stands proud and is ‘to-the-minute’ as a symbol of quality and prestige.

A Birkin 35 by Hermès.
Sold for $16,250

Many Hermès products have similar histories. In the early 1900s, one of the first leather bags made by the firm was the Haut à Courroies, specially designed for riders to carry their saddles, and I might add, giving them style and clout as they did so. The Haut à Courroies is still in production today. The ultimate chic ‘man-bag’, it was famously revamped to a smaller size in 1984 as the Birkin bag – possibly the most coveted bag in the world.

Another bag with a similar history is the Sac à Dépêches, created in 1935. It too had many makeovers and in the 1950s was redesigned and renamed ‘The Kelly’, for American actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly. Famously pictured on the front of Life Magazine, Kelly popularised the bag and made it an icon. Little did the princess know at the time that she was creating a costly status symbol.

The famous Hermès silk Carré were introduced in 1937. Like all products Hermès, production was overseen from start to finish, but the key to the success of the scarves was in the loom. The Chinese yarn is spun and woven into fabric twice as strong and heavier than most of its contemporaries. The Carré is one of the house’s most popular lines today, boasting over two thousand designs.

Grace Kelly holding her now iconic Hermès bag, with Prince Rainier III in Philadelphia, PA, 1956. Photo: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy

During the 1970s, Hermès went through a decline. This was partly due to their insistence of maintaining the costly high standard of their products, while other houses franchised or looked at cheaper means of production. Their defiance to respect their traditions and the quality of their luxury goods paid off. Under the directorship of Jean-Louis Dumas, the focus of the business was changed from an elderly person’s nostalgia to a young person’s dream. Few new products were created at this time and instead, traditional lines were reinvented to suit the times; this is what Hermès does best. Hermès has also always been clever in limiting the supply of their popular lines and increasing the demand, where other luxury houses increase production, flooding the market with their goods. In the following decades, company owned stores were increased worldwide making it one of the world’s most valuable luxury brands.

For its 2014 Spring / Summer advertising campaign Hermès used the slogan, ‘Everything Changes, Nothing Changes’. From its foundation in 1837, Hermès’s core
values were craftsmanship and quality materials. In a world of constant change, it is refreshing that the
company remains true to these values today.

John D’AGATA / Head of Luxury

July 2021