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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hermès Logo

Hermès (in English generally pronounced [air-mez]) is a leather goods, fashion, and perfume company based in Paris, France. It is widely regarded as among the most prestigious and exclusive fashion houses in the world and is known for it's famous 'H' logo.


Hermès has a reputation as the world's leading producer of fine leather goods. This is due to the high cost of its goods, even when compared to other leading fashion houses, which is partly a result of the unusually high craftmanship that goes into its products and partly related to the exclusivity of the brand. Although it is often labeled as a fashion house, the company has styled itself as a producer of classic luxury goods. As Hermès items are considered a benchmark of fine craftmanship they rarely fall out of fashion and when they require repair, owners are encouraged to bring the item back to any Hermès store where it can be shipped to the factory in Paris for repair or reconditioning.

Company history

Founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddlery company, the business has been owned by a family member ever since. Today, the house of Hermès produces ready-to-wear fashion, home decor, jewellery, luggage, and fragrances as well as saddles. The company operates boutiques and franchises in 34 countries.

Emile-Maurice Hermès, Thierry's successor, shifted the focus of the company at the turn of the 20th century away from the horse and towards plane, car, and train travel. Hermès manufactured trunks, bags, overnight cases, from its signature saddle leather. Emile also purchased the building at Rue Faubourg St.-Honoré 24 in Paris, which still houses the flagship store as well as the workshops.

Robert Dumas, the husband of one of Emile's four daughters, introduced Hermès ties, fragrances, and beach towels. His son, Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès, was the fifth Chairman of Hermès, and led the company from 1978 until January 2006, when he retired. Patrick Thomas, his successor, joined the company in 1989 and is the current CEO.[1]


One of Hermès' most recognized products is the silk scarf. The first silk scarf square in the Hermès collection was produced in 1928, and in 1937 a dedicated scarf factory was established in Lyon. The modern Hermès 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 Hermès 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, Hermès has produced over 25,000 designs.

The Brides De Gala scarf, first introduced in the 1970s, has been sold over 70,000 times. A Hermès 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 Hermès volumes suffering as a result.[citation needed] New scarves retail at $325 and still account for a significant percentage of Hermès’ turnover.

Famous lovers of the Hermès scarf included Queen Elizabeth II (who wore one in a portrait for a British postage stamp in the 1950s), Grace Kelly (who used an Hermès scarf as a sling for her broken arm), Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, and Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. More recently, Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Elle McPherson, and Madonna have all been photographed wearing the scarves. Notoriously, Stone used one for bondage in the film Basic Instinct.

In addition to fine silk scarves, men's neckties are made out of the same silks and with the same care. Famous wearers include US Senator John Kerry. Hermès ties cost $148.

Leather goods

Hermès handbags have always been coveted pieces of handmade leather craftmanship. Hermès 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, crocodile, ostrich and lizard 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 Hermès 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. Jane Birkin has since given up carrying her namesake bag, saying it contributed to her tendonitis. [1]

More recently, the Birkin bag has been featured in television shows such as Sex and the City, Will & Grace and Gilmore Girls as well as on the arms of well-heeled celebrities like Martha Stewart, Victoria Beckham, and Lindsay Lohan. Generally, these bags start at $7,400 and easily make their way into 5-digit, sometimes 6-digit figures.

The wait time for a Birkin can be up to six years, based on the type of leather or skin requested.

An Hermès Birkin bag
An Hermès Birkin bag


Hermès moved into perfumery in 1951, with Eau d'Hermès, created by Edmond Roudnitska. It now sells a range of fragrances for men and women, including Eau d'Orange Verte, created by Françoise Caron (1979), Calèche, and 24 Faubourg, a favourite of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Partnership with the Tuareg

For years Hermès has partnered with Tuareg tribesmen on silver jewelry. The famous Saharan nomads traditional motifs are often imitated by various Hermès products including some of the French company's trademark scarves. Often Hermès commissions Tuareg artists to work on silver jewelry as well.

Oprah Winfrey controversy

In June 2005, celebrity Oprah Winfrey was denied access to the company's flagship store in Paris afterhours. Winfrey's camp spoke of a rude clerk and manager and suggested racism as the reason for the denied access. Hermès stated that Winfrey had simply shown up after hours and during a special public relations event and was turned away.[2] Oprah has since talked about her experience on her television talk-show which featured Robert Chavez, Hermes USA CEO, as a guest. Chavez apologized on camera for the actions of what he said was "one very, very rigid staff person" and Winfrey subsequently endorsed the company.[3]

Corporate information

Hermès is still 80 percent family-owned, with the other 20 percent traded on the Paris Bourse since 1993.

The current CEO is Patrick Thomas, who replaced Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès in January 2006. He has been with the company since 1989.[1]

Today, leather goods make up 30 percent of the business, clothes 15 percent, and scarves 12 percent.

Hermès has a stake in several other companies as well. They own 35% of Jean-Paul Gaultier company, a large share of Leica[citation needed], and full ownership of shoemaker John Lobb, which was acquired in 1976.


  • The company was recently featured in the Japanese movie and TV series Densha Otoko, in which a set of teacups with the Hermès logo was given as a gift that lead to the union of the two main characters.
  • The Hermès briefcase was recently mentioned in the song "Upgrade U" by R&B artist Beyoncé featuring Jay Z.
  • The Hermès silk scarf was mentioned by name as the object used to tie down a person in bed in the film Basic Instinct.
  • The Hermès silk scarf was mentioned in the film The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
  • The Hermès silk scarf was mentioned in the film The Princess Diaries, starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews.

External links

  • Official Site
  • Antonella Gambotto-Burke's interview with Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes


  1. ^ a b, Accessed 1 March 2007.
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