Hermes History and Brand Background

Hermès is a high end French luxury brand that specializes in leather goods, bags, tableware and perfume.

Hermes background story originally started out life as a harness and bridal workshop which was first established in the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris by Thierry Hermes in 1837.

It made a name for itself by supplying some of the most important noblemen in Europe at the time with high quality bridals and harnesses.

Today it has a diverse range of luxury goods that are sold in it’s own luxury boutiques the world over and some select franchise stores too.

History of Hermes

The history of Hermes is like few other in the world of high end designer brands as it has been retained in family ownership for almost all of it’s existence.

Founded by Thierry Hermes it has been passed down through the generations and built up from a very niche focused harness manufacturer to one of the most sought after high end brands in the world.

Thierry Hermès Biography

Thierry Hermes was born in 1801 in Krefeld, Germany to a German mother and a French father.

His parents were inn keepers and had a total of six children of which Thierry was the youngest.

Due to disease and war he lost his entire family and moved to France in 1821 as an orphan.

At the Krefeld was part of the Napoleonic Empire which gave him an automatic French citizenship.

He first opened his saddle and harness shop in 1837 in Grands Boulevards neighborhood in Paris, France.

Thierry was a gifted leather worker and specialized in extremely high quality and strong horse harnesses.

What set him apart from other harness manufacturers was the stitching that he used which could only be done by hand and used two needles.

The resulting high quality stitching and leather work won his harnesses the Expositions Universelles in Paris in 1855 and 1867.

His customers included many of the Paris high society, noblemen and royalty from throughout Europe and the emperor Napolean III.

Thierry was married to Christine Petronille with whom he had one son Charles-Emile and later two grandsons Adolphe and Emile-Maurice.

Hermes of Paris Background

After initially establishing Hermes as one of the finest bridal and harness brands in Europe by Thierry it is his son Charles who moved the company from there original address to a retail location at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where it still trades at today.

At the time they renamed the brand to Hermes Freres.

Charles-Emile continued to manufacture harnesses but with the help of his sons Adolphe and Emile-Maurice started to introduce saddlery and sold to the rich Paris elite from the retail presence at rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

It is in 1900 that Hermes offered it’s first bag for sale, it’s Haut à Courroies bag was introduced and a subsequent line of high quality stitched leather horse riding accessories began to find favor with the public.

Adolphe however, decided that the company did not have a bright future and his brother Emile-Maurice was left in sole ownership of the business.

Just as the age of the automobile was starting Emile-Maurice realized that the business of harnesses and saddlery would begin to decline so in 1923 he patented as new type of zipper.

With a two year patent secured on the zipper which was known as the Hermes Fastener the Hermes launches into various clothing lines and the future of the firm was ensured.

In 1922 they introduced their first leather handbag and a year later made their first foray into the American market.

The first women’s couture collection was previewed in 1929 and the during the 1930’s the modern Hermes as we know it today introduced some of it’s most iconic product lines particularly handbags and scarves.

Emile-Maurice’s two sons-in-law Robert Dumas-Hermès and Jean-René Guerrand-Hermès then succeedded him in 1950 and would be the first non-direct descendants of Thierry Hermes to head the company.

Hermes Designers

There is a long list of Hermes designers but in recent years big names such as Martin Margiela, Jean-Paul Gautier and Christophe Lemaire have dominated the headlines and further strengthened the Hermes brand reputation.

Other designers that have worked with Hermes include:

  • Lola Prusac
  • Claude Brouet
  • Mariot Chane
  • Bernard Sanz
  • Veronique Nichanian
  • Nadege Vanhhe-Cybulski

Who Owns Hermes?

The Hermes brand is majority owned by the Dumas family. Although publicly traded on the stock market the Dumas family still retain some 75% of the holdings of Hermes International S.A.

The Hermès family group consists of the partners of Émile Hermès Sarl, their spouses,
children and grandchildren, and their direct and indirect holding companies of Hermès
International and Émile Hermès Sarl.

It has a market capitalization of some €70 billion and the Hermes shares are traded on Euronext Paris.

Hermes Timeline

  • 1837 – Hermès is established by Thierry Hermès in 1837. The workshop was originally known for the production of harnesses and saddles. The workshop’s main purpose was to purvey equestrian riding supplies to European nobleman. The house also created wrought iron harnesses and bridles for carriage trade.
  • 1855 – Hermès won first prize in its class at the 1855 Exposition Universèlle in Paris. Hermès also won this same award in 1867.
  • 1880 – Thierry Hermès’ son, Charles-Emile Hermès, took over and moved the store to a different location in Paris. Here he continued with the saddler artisan and focused on international retail sales. The line catered to the elite of Europe, Russia, North Africa, Asian and Americas.
  • 1900’s – Began to offer haut à courroies bag designed especially for riders to carry their saddles in. After Charles-Emile Hermès retired his sons, Adolphe and Emile-Maurice Hermès took over and renamed the house Hermès Freres. By the 20’s, Hermès had a patent for the zipper in France thanks to Emile-Maurice.
  • 1922 – The first leather handbag was introduced by Emile Maurice who used his patented zipper in the design.
  • During the 1920’s, Emile-Maurice took over as sole head of the business and started training his son-in-laws as business partners. Also, the first leather garment was introduced, a leather zipper golfing jacket made for the Prince of Wales.
  • 1924 – Hermès established a presence in the United States and opened two stores in French resorts.
  • 1929 – The first womens couture collection was previewed in Paris.
  • 1930’s – Hermès began to sell their products in the US in Neiman Marcus, New York.
  • 1937 – The first Hermès silk scarf is born. Hermès took control of every aspect of the production of the scarf.
  • Fun Fashion Fact: Today, an Hermès silk scarf is allegedly sold every 20 seconds.
  • The company expanded into riding gloves, belts, and men and women’s sportswear, and designed the now-famous travel trunks to meet the needs of the new automobile drivers.
  • 1956 – The Kelly bag debut after Grace Kelly carries a crocodile handbag to hide her pregnancy.
  • 1970’s – The first women’s shoe collection and the first complete men’s ready-to-wear collection was introduced.
  • 1984 – Actress Jane Birkin replaced her straw handbag with a leather Hermès handbag thus began the trend of the Birkin handbag.
  • Fun Fashion Fact: The Birkin bag has the longest wait list for an accessory today, 6 years.
  • Hermès also created and launched a complete home line, bed and bath linens, furniture, silverware, crystal and porcelain, baby gifts and office accessories.
  • 2003 – Fashion Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier follows Martin Margiela and joins the house as women’s ready-to-wear designer (debut fall/winter 2004-2005 runway). Gaultier put a high fashion spin on the houses equestrian roots.
  • 2003 – Patrick Thomas becomes the head of Hermes after the retirement of Jean Louis Dumas.
  • June 2004 – Jean-Claude Ellena took a post as the in-house perfumier and launched several scents that have amassed cultish popularity.
  • 2010 – Creative Director Christophe Lemaire takes over for Gaultier.
  • 2012 – Axel Dumas is name CEO and is a sixth generation Hermes family member.