Fashion Designer Fashion Designer Thierry Hermes founded his saddlery company in 1837. His family were originally Protestants from Germany who settled in Paris around 1828. Gradually he added boots, jewelry, home decor items, and silk scarves. His son Charles-Emile Hermes (1835-1919) and grandsons Adolphe Hermes and Emile-Maurice (1870-1951) continued to run the family firm after Thierry died. Emile-Maurice Hermes, Theirry’s successor, realized at the turn of the 20th century that travel was fast moving away from the horse and towards plane, car, and train travel. He responded by manufacturing trunks, bags, overnight cases, all from his family’s signature saddle leather. He also purchased the building at 24 Rue Faubourg St.-Honoré in Paris, which still houses the flagship store as well as the workshops. When the first Hermes store opened in its current Paris location in the 1930s, the famous silk Hermes scarf soon became a great success. It is inspired by the scarf, which Napoleon’s soldier wore. It became a masculine accessory for the newly liberated women of the Golden ’20s. All of the Hermes products are inspired by horses or horse motifs. Scarves, for both men and women, are until today their most popular product. When Emile-Maurice died in 1951, his son-in-laws Robert Dumas (1905-1978) and Jean-Rene Guerrand (1901-1993) took over Hermes. They added the name Hermes to their own surname. Robert Dumas-Hermes introduced the Hermes Tie, the Beach towel, and the Perfume. When Robert Dumas died in 1978, his son Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes (born 1938) took over the company. He is the 5th generation Chairman of Hermes. He is very much a “hands-on” chairman, taking a personal interest in every Hermes product or development. He travels extensively all over the world, and brings back ideas which go into Hermes product lines. His wife Rena is Greek-born and is very involved with charitable activities and philanthropy. His son Pierre-Alexis is studying in Art school. Emile-Maurice Hermes travelled through Europe and Russia in the first few years of the 20th century. He became a supplier of saddles to the Czar. In Canada, buying gear, he spotted the zip and brought it back to France. In 1918 the first leather Golf jacket with a zip was made by Hermes. He saw that the days of the horse-carriage were numbered and Hermes luggage of all sizes was the result. Today, in Hermes leather storage facility in Paris, lie hundreds of the finest animal skins, alligator from Florida, buffalo from Pakistan, crocodile from Australia, sharks from Thailand, lizards from Malaysia, oxen, deer, calf and goats from all over the world. These are dyed in every colour, pattern and texture imaginable and turned into stylish accessories. In 1922 the wife of Emile-Maurice Hermes complained that she could not find a handbag that she liked. So he began making handbags at Hermes, many with the revolutionary invention – the zip – for which he held the patent. Hermes now makes so many beautiful handbags of all shapes and sizes. Some of the most famous are: Kelly Bag 1956 – named after Grace Kelly. Constance Bag – Jackie Onassis wore this shoulder bag with the double strap and big H clasps, so often that people often ask for the Jackie O bag. Birkin Bag 1984 – named after Jane Birkin, the film star and model of the 1960’s, who met Jean-Louis when struggling to get her handbag on a plane overhead locker. There is a one-year waiting list for ladies ordering this bag. Hermes first women’s collection was shown in Paris in 1929. Initially couture clothing was made, up until 1956. Over the years the ready-to-wear collections have been designed by 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. From 1998 to 2003 Belgian designer Martin Margiela was the designer. The reclusive, avant-garde designer known for his deconstructed clothing produced simple elegant modern clothes for Hermes. In early 2003 it has been announced that Frenchman Jean-Paul Gaultier will be the designer for future collections for Hermes. One of Hermes’ most recognized products is the silk scarf. The first silk scarf square in the Hermes collection was produced in 1928, and in 1937 a dedicated scarf factory was established in Lyon. The modern Hermes scarf measures 90cm square, weighs 65 grams and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons. The per-pound cost of a scarf today is approximately $1,965.00 (compared to a pound of steel at $0.19).
All Hermes scarves are hand-printed using multiple silk screens (up to 30, one for each color on the scarf) and the hems are all hand-stitched. Two scarf collections per year are released, along with re-prints of older designs and limited editions. Since 1937, Hermes has produced over 25,000 unique designs and the rarer scarves are much sought-after by collectors.
The ubiquitous Brides De Gala scarf, first introduced in the 1970s, has been sold over 70,000 times. An Hermes scarf is sold somewhere in the world every 25 seconds, global volume sales peaking in the late 1980s at over 1.1 million scarves. There has been some suggestion that the hijab controversy has dampened sales of women’s headscarves, with Hermes volumes suffering as a result. New scarves retail at $320 and still account for a significant percentage of Hermes’ turnover.
In addition to fine silk scarves, men’s neckties are made out of the same silks and with the same care. Their witty and frivolous patterns are popular with preppies and politicians alike, including US Senator John Kerry. Hermes ties cost $145.
Hermes handbags have always been coveted pieces of handmade leather craftmanship. Hermes does not use assembly lines, rather, only one artist may work on one handbag at a time. Because of the use of rare materials (sometimes including exotic skins such as alligator, ostrich, and crocodile as well as precious metals) and because only the highest quality craftmanship is accepted, one bag can take 18 to 24 hours to create.
The Kelly bag was named for Grace Kelly, who made it famous after appearing on the cover of Life in 1956 carrying the bag. Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis, another Hermes aficionado, preferred the Constance shoulder bag (with a double strap and large H clasp) or the Trim shoulder bag. Perhaps the most famous handbag, the Birkin, was named for actress Jane Birkin, who co-designed the bag with president Jean-Louis Dumas after complaining that her Kelly was not practical for everyday use.
More recently, due to media spotlight in television shows such as Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls, the Birkin Bag has become a symbol of ultimate luxury. Generally, these bags start at $6,000 and easily make their way into 5-digit, sometimes 6-digit figures.
The alleged waiting list for a Birkin is now over two years and it is now closed to the public. In reality, there is no real waiting list. A customer can readily walk into a Hermes shop and purchase a Birkin bag if the shop manager feels that the customer is a legitimate buyer and not one who simply buys the Birkin bag to resell it to others.
Birkin bags are readily available in the large Hermes shops throughout the world. The Birkin is highly coveted, possibly the most coveted bag available today. Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis, Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Elly McPherson, Madonna
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