Hermès is the epitome of luxury: expert craftsmanship teamed with exclusivity, making Hermès pieces the most sought-after in the world (just ask anyone on the reported six-year waitlist for a Birkin bag). The Maison’s evolution from a humble harness workshop to an 18-billion-dollar brand is a success story for the ages–one that is rooted in family. And it all began in 19th century Paris.
Thierry Hermès founded the House of Hermès in 1837 as a harness workshop to provide European noblemen with harnesses, bridles, and various riding gear. The workshop’s astounding success led Thierry to expand his award-winning creations. They included the leather Haut à Courroies pouch for riders to store feed, saddles, and accessories. In 1880 Thierry Hermès’, son and successor Charles-Emile Hermès moved the Hermès workshop to 24 Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Honoré–the iconic Parisian address where the Hermès House still stands today.
The first handbag, as we know and love, was not conceptualized until 1922. When the owner, Emile Hermès’ wife complained about being unable to find the perfect bag, he produced a one-of-a-kind handbag for her with his own hands. These handbags introduced zippers. Emile discovered the zippers on his travels, and they were previously unheard of in France. These ‘zippers’ would then become known throughout Europe as the Hermès fasteners. To this day, Emile’s vast collection of art, objects, and books from his travels continue to be a source of inspiration for the House.
Upon his passing, Emile Hermès passed the torch to his son-in-law Robert Dumas. Robert has been recognized for creating the Kelly bag, Chaîne d’ancre bracelet, and the Maison’s signature silk scarves–one of which (reportedly) sells every 20 seconds.
In 1984, Dumas’ son Jean-Louis Dumas transformed the business into an international luxury retailer by conceptualizing the Birkin handbag. The Birkin bag was launched after a chance encounter with British singer and actress Jane Birkin.
Today, Hermès produces a staggering 30,000 products, including leather goods, ready-to-wear, accessories, fragrances, watches, jewelry, furniture, and, of course, saddles.