Hermes is a fashion house steeped in history and tradition. Family-owned for five generations, the label is a symbol of class worldwide. From beginnings in saddlery and fine equestrian leather goods, Hermes today are best known for their handbags as well as a range of other superior items. They have certainly come a long way in the last two centuries and today, we dig a little deeper into the story of this iconic brand.
1801 – Thierry Hermes is born in Krefeld, Germany to a French immigrant father, Thierry Hermes, and a German mother, Agnese Kuhnen. The town of Krefeld is known as ‘Stadt wie Samt und Seide’, or ‘City of Velvet and Silk’, due to its strong textile history.
1828 – The Hermes family move to Pont Audemer, north of Paris, where Thierry Jr. learns the trade of leather making and begins crafting harnesses.
1831 – Thierry and his wife, Petronille Pierrtant, welcome their first son and eventual heir to the Hermes throne, Charles-Emile Hermes into the world.
1837 – Thierry Hermes establishes the French house of Hermes as a harness workshop along the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris. His workshop serves the noblemen of Europe. The house also creates wrought iron harnesses and bridles for carriage trade.
1855 – The high quality wrought harnesses and bridles crafted by Hermes gain recognition, winning several awards including the First Class Medal of the Exposition of Paris.
1867 – Hermes wins the First Class Medal for the second time at the Expositions Universelles in Paris.
1878 – Thierry Hermes passes away.
1880 – Hermes’s son, Charles-Emile Hermes, takes over management of his father’s workshop and moves the store to a different location, on 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, where it remains to this day. Here, he continues with the saddler artisan and focuses on international retail sales with lines catering to the elite of Europe, Russia, North Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
1900 – With the help of his sons, Adolphe and Emile-Maurice, Charles-Emile designs the ‘Haut a Courroies’ bag, intended to allow riders to carry their saddles with them.
1902 – Charles-Emile retires, leaving the business to his sons, Adolphe and Emile-Maurice, who rename it Hermes Freres, or Hermes Brothers.
1914 – Emile-Maurice begins furnishing the czar of Russia with saddles and up to 80 saddle craftsmen are employed by the workshop. Due to this, Emile-Maurice gains exclusive rights to the use of the zipper on leather goods and clothing, becoming the first person in France to introduce the device.
1918 – Hermes introduce the first leather golf jacket with a zipper, crafted for Edward, Prince of Wales. Due to their exclusive rights agreement, the zipper becomes known throughout France as the ‘fermeture Hermes’, or the ‘Hermes fastener’.
1919 – A decline in sales of horse harnesses and equipment leads to Adolphe Hermes leaving the company with Emile-Maurice buying his brother out.
1922 – The first leather handbags are introduced after Emile-Maurice’s wife complains of not being able to find one to her liking. The bag is a smaller version of the ‘Haut a Courroies’ and is designed by Emile-Maurice personally.
1924 – Hermes establish a presence in the United States and open two new stores in French resorts.
1929 – Hermes introduce the first women’s couture apparel collection which includes bathing outfits and is previewed in Paris.
1935 – Hermes launch one of their most recognizable original goods, the Sac a depeches bag, which would later go on to become known as the Kelly bag.
1937 – Hermes introduces the silk scarf which instantly becomes a huge hit with celebrities such as Jacqueline Kennedy.
1938 – The Chaine d’ancre bracelet and the riding jacket and outfit join the classic collection. The company’s designers also begin to draw inspiration from books, paintings, and art objects around this time.
1950 – The perfume division of Hermes is established.
1951 – Emile-Maurice Hermes passes away and Robert Dumas Hermes, husband of Jacqueline Hermes, takes over the company with perfumer Jean Rene Guerrand, husband of Aline Hermes, both of whom are great-granddaughters of Thierry Hermes.
Early 1950s – Hermes begin to use a caliche logo based on a drawing by French painter Alfred de Dreux. At this time Hermes also begin using their iconic orange boxes.
1956 – A photo of Hollywood actress turned Monaco Princess, Grace Kelly, carrying a Hermes Sac a Depeches to cover her pregnant belly is published on the front cover of Life Magazine. Suddenly women are flooding into Hermes stores asking for the ‘Kelly Bag’. Hermes renames the Sac a Depaches as the Kelly.
1978 – Great-great-great-grandson of Thierry Hermes, Jean Louis Dumas, takes over the company and the same year Hermes purchases the building next to 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, expanding the flagship in Paris.
1981 – The iconic Birkin bag is introduced, named after British actress Jane Birkin following a chance encounter the year previous.
2003 – Following the retirement of Jean Louis Dumas, Patrick Thomas becomes the new head of Hermes.
2007 – Upon the purchase of 28 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, Hermes once again expands its flagship store in Paris.
2012 – Sixth generation Hermes family member, Axel Dumas, is named CEO of the company and remains in position today.