Six generations of artisans at the helm of the House of Hermès
Today, the Hermès brand is sixteen product categories, from women's and men's ready-to-wear to perfumes and makeup, from jewelry
to watches and leather goods. We will not forget, of course, the famous Carré de soie and equipment for riders and horses.
The Parisian brand can not be described as a "luxury brand catch-all", as Hermès is faithful to its values: the beautiful and timeless, the noble materials and the handmade, a special savoir-vivre that makes it a unique House since its creation in 1837. Another peculiarity, as we will see, Hermès
is first and foremost a family affair since six generations of contemporary craftsmen, as the company itself describes them, have succeeded one another at its head, until 2006.
For 184 years, its website states, "Hermès has been following a double thread, that of the craftsman's meticulous work and that of the lifestyle of its customers."
A house that has always lived with the times
It is true that when Thierry Hermès
founded the first workshop in 1837 in Paris, it was not yet time for the automobile, but for travel by horse-drawn carriage. Born in Germany and apprenticed in Normandy, his trade was that of a saddlery craftsman. The man has the concern of the detail and the work well done, a reward at the World Fair of Paris in 1867 attracts in his workshop rich customers, of which Napoleon III and the empress Eugénie.
The custom-made harnesses and saddles of the Maison Hermès, with their hand-stitched designs, still used today, built its reputation. And the company will always know how to keep this spirit of excellence
and creativity. This is true with Charles-Emile, Thierry's son, who takes over the reins in 1878 and opens the doors to leather goods, creating in particular the O bag with strap, to store the boots of horsemen - and which in a "miniaturized" version will become the famous Kelly bag.
The rise of the luggage industry
did not escape the third generation either. Adolphe and Emile Hermès also lived with the times. From a trip to Canada, the second brought back to France the patent for the "ferme-tout", in other words the zipper, which he obtained the exclusive right to use for two years. The founder's grandson diversified the House's activity by creating a first golf jacket
, in 1925.
A silk square that stands the test of time
To the lines of clothing, bags and accessories adapted to the new activities in vogue, the beach, golf and skiing for example, Hermès transposed all its know-how from the horse and riding, including the famous saddle stitch
. And then, in 1937, pattern maker Lola Prusac, who was already making a name for herself with her sportswear collections, created what remains the House's emblem to this day: the silk square
Hermès was inspired both by the printed handkerchiefs on which World War I soldiers saw military instructions written, the equestrian world and the transportation of the time (the omnibus in this case). The company entrusted the Lyon silk workers
, the canuts, with the making of its squares, each of which required 450 kilometers and 600 hours of work.
And here again, the square will evolve with the times, in the illustrations as in the colors, without ever denying its success. It is still sold every thirty minutes in the world today.
Creative excellence, the foundation of the House
Emile Hermès had four daughters. Time obliges, it was to one of his sons-in-law, Robert Dumas, that he entrusted the reins of the House, in 1951. Under his leadership, the large strap bag became a handbag, and future Kelly bag
, a sketch of boats moored in Normandy became the anchor chain bracelet
. The House of Hermès opened up to perfumery, then to ready-to-wear clothing in 1967.
Hermès surrounds itself with the best experts in their fields, master perfumers, silk makers, stylists, but also a decorator in the person of Leïla Menchari who will design the windows of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré store until 2013.
This vocation of excellence
is perpetuated by Jean-Louis Dumas, son of Robert, a curious and visionary business leader who brings Hermès into the world of watchmaking, then into those of shoes, crystal and goldsmithing.
Sixteen trades, and jewelry
When in 1992 Hermès left the Faubourg Saint-Honoré to move its craftsmen into spacious premises in Pantin, which would become the Cité des métiers
, the company was already distinguished in sixteen activities. To Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermès also owes its international vocation, with the opening of its first House in New York.
His son, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, took over in 2005 and notably made the House's expertise in jewelry manufacturing into high jewelry
lines. His successors, Patrick Thomas and then Axel Dumas since 2013, continue the development of the House of Hermès between tradition, know-how and abundant imagination.
The concept store opened in 2010 in the 1400 square meters of the former Lutetia swimming pool in Paris is still the perfect illustration of this today.