The Big Three from France: Part II

In the last issue, we delved into the influential vision of Louis Vuitton. Now, we take a look at the next of our three French luxury giants; Hermès.

A Birkin 35 Handbag by Hermès, Sold for $15,000
A Birkin 35 Handbag by Hermès, Sold for $15,000

Hermès, timeless yet innovative, opened its doors in 1837 along the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris as a harness workshop servicing the elite of Europe. It was founded by Theirry Hermès, who like Louis Vuitton came from humble beginnings. After Thierry’s death, in 1880, his son Charles-Emile Hermès took over the management of the business, and things started to change for the brand.

Expanding the business, the workshop moved to 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, laying a solid foundation, as the Hermès headquarters still stand there today. The company continued to focus on international sales throughout Europe, Russia, North Africa, Asia, and the Americas, primarily as an artisan saddler.

With an affluent clientele established, the 20th century introduced a range of products synonymous with the house today. In 1900 the ‘Haut à Courroies’, a saddle carry bag, was created – the predecessor of the desirable Birkin, by the way.

Handbags were introduced formally in 1922, and in 1935 the ‘Sac à Dépêches’ came along. It would take the fashion world by storm when it was renamed 1956 as the ‘Kelly’.

Hermès advertisement, 1929 / Alamy
Hermès advertisement, 1929 / Alamy

The first women’s ready couture collection was launched in 1929. The famous silk scarves were added to the offering in 1937, and in 1951 the first fragrance ‘Eau d’ Hermès’ was launched. The company continued to reinvent and add new products to its range right through the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Hermès stays true to its artisan values with limited stock across some lines, and is proud to be still family owned.

Stay tuned for the next issue of Leonard Magazine, in which we’ll look at Chanel, our third French trailblazer.

JOHN D’AGATA / Head of Luxury

July 2022