For almost two centuries, Hermès has been strongly associated with luxury and products of the highest quality. Since they started manufacturing equestrian equipment, they have developed into a marker for quality in everything from perfumes to clothing and accessories. For example, they are very famous for their formidable ties, which we will take a closer look at in this article. Join us on Hermès' journey from being a small-scale family business to becoming one of the world's most coveted luxury brands.
Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy have both been seen several times covering their faces from paparazzi's camera lenses with a pair of large black sunglasses and a fancy Hermès silk scarf on their heads. The one who probably made the biggest impression as a carrier of Hermès products is the then Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. It was after she, in 1956, with a Hermès Sac à dépêches bag in black crocodile skin, hid her pregnant belly from the cameras that the product changed its name. Today, "Kelly Bag" is one of Hermès' most popular products.
Grace Kelly has, in a famous photograph, also been seen using a Hermès scarf as a sling after she had broken her arm.
Today, Hermès products are often used as something you show off and are proud of, as a type of status marker. It is not uncommon to see Hollywood stars or other celebrities proudly show off their luxurious designs. For example, it is more a rule than an exception that Victoria Beckham parades past with one of her hundred different Birkin bags.
Hermès' journey started with the founder Thierry Hermès; he was born in 1801 in Krefeld, just outside of Düsseldorf. At this time the town was part of the First French Republic, which made Thierry a citizen of a France ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte. After the Hermès family tragically lost large parts of their family due to illness and during the Napoleonic Wars, they moved to Paris in 1828.
And it was not until 1837 that Hermès opened its doors to the famous shop on the now-defunct Rue Basse-du-Rempart in Paris. It was mainly French nobles and transport companies that were part of Hermès' private clientele. They got to take part of Thierry Hermès' high-quality harness and reins, products that were awarded prizes for their innovative designs.
The formidable family business and its tradition were to be passed on to Thierry's grandchildren Adolphe and Èmile-Maurice Hermès when he passed away in 1878.
Their first significant change was to move the business to what has become the site of Hermès' iconic flagship store at 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the eighth arrondissement. It was at this address that Hermès began making saddles and made their products available to the public for the first time. Hermès quickly increased its popularity, and their products created a desire in a class with the global elite. The Hermès brothers set a new standard for what luxury products could be in the early 20th century when they launched the HAC Birkin bag, a bag that met the needs for riders who now demanded new ways to transport the new line of saddlery while travelling.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Hermès had extreme success and developed into a big global brand. It was during this time that they launched their first collections of handbags for women, such as the Sac à dépêches handbag (Kelly Bag). They also launched the first collections of silk scarves. It was during this time that Hermès in the splendour we know it today was created, with its luxury products carried by everyone from Madonna to Queen Elizabeth II.
Their success did not seem to have any upper limit, and the company continued to expand for decade after decade. In the 1940s, their new line of perfumes, Eau d'Hermès, was launched. It was also during this decade that they launched the so famous silk tie. Both the fragrance and the ties became their best-selling products in the line of high-quality collections.
It was during the 60s and 70s that Hermès began to stand out a little extra among its competitors in the luxury segment. Most popular brands changed strategy and introduced materials such as nylon, polyester and vinyl in their products, which contributed to a higher production rate being possible, but which impoverished the quality. Hermès, on the other hand, stuck to their quality materials and craftsmanship that had made them so famous. This development risked the cornerstones of the luxury segment, quality and craftsmanship, and Hermès had to fight hard when competitors could offer a lower price. Despite this, commercial success continued, and Hermès opened many new stores globally.
This development has put Hermès in a separate segment within the luxury category. Because they kept to their tradition of craftsmanship and materials of the highest class, they have become a luxury brand that stood out from the crowd. This spirit is maintained to this day, and Hermès works hard and is very careful not to let go of the slightest bit on their DNA.
Hermès themselves are very keen that their products be classified as "quality products" rather than "luxury products". That is because they believe that "luxury" refers to bling-bling and bragging, while "quality" refers to the craftsmanship behind a product.
As promised, a little extra effort will be given to try to get a clearer picture of what makes Hermès ties the popular product it has become.
Hermès are best known for their printed silk ties, which often have a playful and colourful design. Despite their sometimes almost childish motifs that usually consist of various animals, they are a trendy accessory in more formal contexts. Ties with duck or horse are often seen worn by men in suits in the banking and finance sector. In addition to its peculiar animal motifs, Hermès is also known for their ties with geometric designs and small micropatterns. It is not uncommon for these motifs to have found their inspiration from equestrian and horses.
A large scoop of craftsmanship is behind Hermès ties, everything from design to manufacturing is made exclusively for Hermès and can not be found anywhere else. Each tie is cut from a larger piece of printed silk fabric, something that requires exact precision in the cut to get the design perfect and not least because each tie has a specific serial number that must be correct. Each tie is also made of two pieces of silk and is hand-sewn into a so-called three-fold tie.
Just like in all other Hermès lines, the ties are associated with a craft of the highest quality, and they also breathe a kind of anti-consumption. That's what makes Hermès the iconic brand it is. Each bag, scarf or tie is made to last for decades and is sewn in a way that makes it easy to repair if needed.
This way of working makes Hermès unique and gives them a good reputation as a timeless creator of design and craftsmanship in a class of their own.