HermÃ¨s International S.A., Hermes of Paris, or simply HermÃ¨s (French pronunciation:Â â[ÉÊmÉs]; /ÉÉrËmÉz/) is a French manufacturer established in 1837, today specializing in leather, lifestyle accessories, perfumery, luxury goods, and ready-to-wear. Its logo, since the 1950s, is of a Duc carriage with horse. NadÃ¨ge Vanhee-Cybulski is the creative director.
The designers throughout the company's history have included Lola Prusac, Jacques Delahaye, Catherine de Karolyi, Monsieur Levaillant, Nicole de Vesian, Eric BergÃ¨re, Claude Brouet, Daniel Deakin, Alex Bartaska, Tan Giudicelli, Marc Audibet, Mariot Chane, Martin Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christophe Lemaire, VÃ©ronique Nichanian (current menswear designer), NadÃ¨ge Vanhee-Cybulski.
Beginnings in the 19th century
Thierry HermÃ¨s (1801â"1878) was born in Krefeld (Germany) to a French father and a German mother. The family moved to France in 1828. In 1837, Thierry HermÃ¨s first established HermÃ¨s as a harness workshop in the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris, dedicated to serving European noblemen. He created high-quality wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade, winning several awards including the first prize in its class in 1855 and again in 1867 at the Expositions Universelles in Paris.
HermÃ¨s's son, Charles-Ãmile HermÃ¨s (1835â"1919), took over management from his father and moved the shop in 1880 to 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-HonorÃ© where it remains to this day. With the help of his sons Adolphe and Ãmile-Maurice, Charles-Ãmile introduced saddlery and started selling his products retail. The company catered to the Ã©lite of Europe, North Africa, Russia, Asia, and the Americas. In 1900, the firm offered the Haut Ã Courroies bag, specially designed for riders to carry their saddles with them.
HermÃ¨s FrÃ¨res era
After Charles-Ãmile HermÃ¨s's retirement, sons Adolphe and Ãmile-Maurice took leadership and renamed the company HermÃ¨s FrÃ¨res. Shortly after, Ãmile-Maurice began furnishing the czar of Russia with saddles. By 1914, up to 80 saddle craftsmen were employed. Subsequently, Ãmile-Maurice was granted the exclusive rights to use the zipper for leather goods and clothing, becoming the first to introduce the device in France. In 1918, HermÃ¨s introduced the first leather golf jacket with a zipper, made for the Prince of Wales. Because of its exclusive rights arrangement the zipper became known in France as the fermeture HermÃ¨s (the HermÃ¨s fastener).
Throughout the 1920s when he was the sole head of the firm, Ãmile-Maurice added an accessory collection and a clothing collection. He also groomed his three sons-in-law (Robert Dumas, Jean-RenÃ© Guerrand and Francis Puech) as business partners. In 1922, the first leather handbags were introduced after Ãmile-Maurice's wife complained of not being able to find one to her liking. Ãmile-Maurice created the handbag collection himself.
In 1924, HermÃ¨s established a presence in the United States and opened two shops in French resorts. In 1929, the first women's couture apparel collection was previewed in Paris. During the 1930s HermÃ¨s introduced some of its most recognized original goods such as the leather Sac Ã dÃ©pÃªches in 1935 (later renamed the "Kelly bag" after Grace Kelly), and the HermÃ¨s carrÃ©s (scarves) in 1937.
The HermÃ¨s scarves became integrated into French culture. In 1938, the ChaÃ®ne d'ancre bracelet and the riding jacket and outfit joined the classic collection. By this point, the company's designers began to draw inspirations from paintings, books, and objets d'art. The 1930s also witnessed HermÃ¨s's entrance into the United States market by offering its products in a Neiman Marcus department store in New York; however, it later withdrew. In 1949, the same year as the launch of the HermÃ¨s silk tie, the first perfume, Eau d'HermÃ¨s, was produced.
Starting in the mid-1930s, HermÃ¨s employed Swiss watchmaker Universal GenÃ¨ve as the brand's first and exclusive designer of timepieces, producing a line of men's wrist chronographs (manufactured in 18K gold or stainless steel) and women's art deco cuff watches (in 18K gold, steel or platinum). Both models contained dials signed either as "HermÃ¨s" or "HermÃ¨s Universal GenÃ¨ve", while the watch movements were signed "Universal GenÃ¨ve S.A.". The HermÃ¨s/Universal partnership would last until the 1950s.
Ãmile-Maurice summarized the HermÃ¨s philosophy during his leadership as "leather, sport, and a tradition of refined elegance."
Robert Dumas-HermÃ¨s (1898â"1978), who succeeded Ãmile-Maurice after his death in 1951, closely collaborated with brother-in-law Jean-RenÃ© Guerrand. Dumas became the first man not directly descended from HermÃ¨s pÃ¨re to lead the company because his connection to the family was only through marriage. Thus, he incorporated the HermÃ¨s last name into his own, Dumas-HermÃ¨s.
The company also acquired its duc-carriage-with-horse logo and signature orange boxes in the early 1950s. Dumas introduced original handbags, jewelry, and accessories and was particularly interested in design possibilities with the silk scarves. Ironically, during the mid-20th century, scarf production diminished. World Tempus, a Web portal dedicated to watchmaking, states: "Brought to life by the magic wand of Annie Beaumel, the windows of the store on Faubourg Saint-HonorÃ© became a theatre of enchantment and [established the store as] a Parisian meeting-place for international celebrities." In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly, who had become the new Princess of Monaco, was shown carrying the Sac Ã dÃ©pÃªches bag in a photography in Life. Purportedly, she held it in front of herself to cover up her pregnancy. Thus, the public began calling it the "Kelly" bag. The name was subsequently adopted by HermÃ¨s, and the bag became hugely popular.
The perfume business became a subsidiary in 1961, concurrently with the introduction of the CalÃ¨che scent, named after a hooded four-wheeled horse carriage, known since the 18th century â" the Company's logo since fifties. (In 2004, Jean-Claude Ellena became the in-house perfumer or "nose" and created the successful Hermessence line of fragrances as well as others.)
The rise and fall and rise of HermÃ¨s
Despite the company's apparent success in the 1970s, exemplified by multiple shops being established worldwide, HermÃ¨s began to fall, compared to competitors. Some industry observers have assigned the cause to HermÃ¨s's insistence on the exclusive use of natural materials for its products, unlike other companies that were calling on new man-made materials. During a two-week lapse in orders, the HermÃ¨s workrooms were silent.
Jean-Louis Dumas, the son of Robert Dumas-HermÃ¨s, became chairman in 1978 and had the firm concentrate on silk and leather goods and ready-to-wear, adding new product groups to those made with its traditional techniques. Unlike his father, Jean-Louis was related to the HermÃ¨s maternally. Travelling extensively and marrying Rena GreforiadÃ¨s, he entered the buyer-training program at Bloomingdale's, the New York department store. Having joined the family firm in 1964, he was instrumental in turning around its downhill progression.
Dumas brought in designers Eric BergÃ¨re and Bernard Sanz to revamp the apparel collection and, in collaboration, added unusual entries. They included the python motorcycle jackets and ostrich-skin jeans, which were dubbed as "a snazzier version of what HermÃ¨s has been all along." (Annual sales in 1978, when Jean-Louis became head of the firm, were reported at US$50Â million. By 1990, annual sales were reported at US$460 million, mainly due to Dumas's strategy.) In 1979, Jean-Louis launched an advertising campaign featuring a young, denim-clad woman wearing an HermÃ¨s scarf. The purpose was to introduce the HermÃ¨s brand to a new set of consumers. As one fashion-sector observer noted, "Much of what bears the still-discreet HermÃ¨s label changed from the object of an old person's nostalgia to the subject of young peoples' dreams." However, Dumas's change-of-image gesture created outrage both within and outside of the firm.
Also in the 1970s, the watch subsidiary, La Montre HermÃ¨s, was established in Bienne, Switzerland. Then, throughout the 1980s, Dumas strengthened the company's hold on its suppliers, resulting in HermÃ¨s's gaining great stakes in prominent French glassware, silverware acquiring venerable tableware manufacturers such as Puiforcat, St. Louis, and PÃ©rigord.
From the 1980s, tableware became a strong segment of the firm. And, overall, the collection of HermÃ¨s goods expanded in 1990 to include over 30,000 pieces. New materials used in the collection included porcelain and crystal.
HermÃ¨s relocated its workshops and design studios to Pantin, just outside of Paris. By June 1993 and possibly a grave mistake, HermÃ¨s had gone public on the Paris Bourse (stock exchange). At the time, the equity sale generated great excitement. The 425,000 shares floated at FFr 300 (US$55 at the time) were oversubscribed by 34 times. Dumas told Forbes magazine that the equity sale would help lessen family tensions by allowing some members to liquidate their holdings without "squabbling over share valuations among themselves."
To this point in time, the HermÃ¨s family was still retaining a strong hold of about 80% in stocks, placing Jean-Louis Dumas and the entire family on the Forbes list of billionaires. Mimi Tompkins of U.S. News & World Report called the company "one of Paris' best guarded jewels."
In the years to follow, Dumas began to decrease HermÃ¨s franchises from 250 to 200 and increased company-owned stores from 60 to 100 to better control sales of its products. The plan was to cost about FFr 200Â million in the short term but was to increase profits in the long term. Having around FFr 500Â million to invest, HermÃ¨s pressed ahead, targeting China for company-operated boutiques, finally opening a store in Beijing in 1996.
In 1997, Jean-Louis hired Belgian modernist designer Martin Margiela to supervise women's ready-to-wear.
By the late 1990s, HermÃ¨s continued extensively to diminish the number of franchised stores, buying them up and opening more company-operated boutiques. The fashion industry was caught off guard in September 1999, when Jean-Louis decided to pay FFr 150Â million for a 35% stake in the Jean-Paul Gaultier fashion house. In the latter part of the 1900s, the company encouraged its clientele to faites nous rÃªver (make us dream), producing throughout the period artistically atypical orders.
The 2000s to today
In 2000, the first John Lobb footwear store was opened in New York. In 2003, iconoclastic Margiela left HermÃ¨s, and the highly controversial Jean-Paul Gaultier, as the head designer, debuted his first ready-to-wear collection for fall/winter 2004â"05.
After 28 years as head of the firm, Jean-Louis Robert Guillame FrÃ©dÃ©ric Dumas-HermÃ¨s retired from the firm in January 2006. Known for his charm and one of Europe's greatest experts on luxury, he died in 2010 after a long illness. Patrick Thomas, who had joined the company in 1989 and who had worked with Jean-as the co-CEO from 2005, replaced him that month. Thomas became the first non-HermÃ¨s to head the company. Jean-Louis's son Pierre-Alexis Dumas is the artistic director.
As of 2008, HermÃ¨s has 14 product divisions encompassing leather, scarves, ties, men's wear, women's fashion, perfume, watches, stationery, footwear, gloves, enamel, decorative arts, tableware, and jewelry.
HermÃ¨s sales are composed of about 30% leather goods, 15% clothes, 12% scarves, and 43% other wares. The company licenses no products and keeps tight control over the design and manufacture of its vast inventory.
The family company is very attached to its old-fashioned business model and rejects mass production, assembly lines, and mechanization. HermÃ¨s goods are almost entirely made in France by hand in middle-sized workshops ("Ateliers HermÃ¨s") with an emphasis on quality manufacturing. Indeed, Hermes claims most items are fabricated from beginning to end by one person only, which is supposed to be a guarantee of the quality and uniqueness of HermÃ¨s products.
In 2012, Hermes retail outlets changed its policy regarding returns and exchanges of products. Consumers may only exchange items within ten days of purchase, and only for another color variant of the original purchase. No other post-purchase exchanges are permitted and refunds are never offered, regardless of the consumer having a receipt.
The scarf or carrÃ© was introduced in 1937. One of the first, which was a print of white-wigged females playing a popular period game, was a custom-made accessory named Jeu des Omnibus et Dames Blanches. HermÃ¨s oversaw the production of its scarves throughout the entire process, purchasing raw Chinese silk, spinning it into yarn, and weaving it into fabric twice as strong and heavy as most scarves available at the time.
The company's scarf designers spend years creating new print patterns, individually screen-printed. Designers chose from over 70,000 different colors. When scarf production first began, a dedicated scarf factory was established in Lyon, France; the same year, HermÃ¨s celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Contemporary HermÃ¨s scarves measure 90Â cm Ã 90Â cm, weigh 65Â grams and are woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons. All of the hems are hand-stitched. Scarf motifs are wide-ranging, Two silk-scarf collections per year are released, along with some reprints of older designs and limited editions. And two collections per year are introduced in a Cashmere/silk blend. Since 1937, HermÃ¨s has produced over 2,000 unique designs; the horse motif is particularly famous and popular. The seen-everywhere "Brides De Gala" version, introduced in 1957, has been produced more than 70,000 times. An HermÃ¨s scarf is sold somewhere in the world every 25 seconds; by the late 1970s more than 1.1 million scarves had been sold worldwide.
The scarves have been worn by several celebrities such as:
- worn by Queen Elizabeth II in a portrait for a 1956 British postage stamp.
- worn by Princess Grace Kelly in a photograph on the cover of a 1956 issue of Life magazine.
- used as a sling by Princess Grace for her broken arm.
- employed by actress Sharon Stone in a bondage scene in the film Basic Instinct.
- made into pillows or otherwise as framed wall-hangings.
Introduced in 1949, men's neckties, in a huge array of motifs over the years from bunnies to confetti, have been made from the same silk material as the scarves and are, likewise, very expensive.
Partnership with the Tuareg
For years, HermÃ¨s has partnered with Tuareg tribesmen in silver jewelry. The Saharan nomads' traditional motifs are often mirrored in various HermÃ¨s products, including scarves.
HermÃ¨s is known for its handmade luggage and handbags. One bag might require 18 to 24 hours to produce. The construction of each Kelly bag, for example, requires 18 hours to fully realize. HermÃ¨s's leathers come from all over the world. Customers may currently wait from six months to one year for delivery of one of the house signature bags. Incidentally, should HermÃ¨s's leather goods require repair, owners can bring an item to any HermÃ¨s store, where it will be shipped to the Atelier HermÃ¨s in Pantin, near Paris, for repair or reconditioning.
Another famous HermÃ¨s handbag, the "Birkin", was named after English actress Jane Birkin who lives in France. After a chance encounter with Jean-Louis Dumas, she complained that her "Kelly" bag was not practical for everyday use. Consequently, he invited her to France where they co-designed the bag. Birkin has since stopped carrying her namesake bag, saying it contributed to her tendonitis.
Since 1951, the company has created several scents for both men and women. This is a partial list of over 30.
Feminine fragrances include:
- CalÃ¨che, 1961
- Amazone, 1974
- Parfum d'HermÃ¨s, 1984
- 24, Faubourg, 1995
- Hiris, 1999
- Rouge HermÃ¨s, 2000
- Eau des Merveilles, 2004
- Kelly CalÃ¨che, 2007
Masculine fragrances include:
- Bel Ami, 1986
- Ãquipage, 1970
- Rocabar, 1998
- Terre D'HermÃ¨s, 2006
Unisex frangrances include:
- Eau d'HermÃ¨s, 1951
- Eau d'Orange Verte, 1999
- Un Jardin en MÃ©diterranÃ©e, 2003
- Un Jardin sur le Nil, 2005
- Un Jardin aprÃ¨s la Mousson, 2008
- Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, 2009
- Eau de Gentiane Blanche, 2009
- Voyage d'HermÃ¨s, 2010
- Un Jardin sur le Toit, 2011
Unisex Hermessence scents exclusive to HermÃ¨s stores, since 2004:
- Rose Ikebana
- Osmanthe Yunnan
- Iris UkiyoÃ©
- Vanille Galante
- Brin de RÃ©glisse
- VÃ©tiver Tonka
- Santal MassoÃ¯a
- Poivre Samarcande
- Paprika brasil
- Ambre NarguilÃ©
- Epice Marine
Crystal Lighting and Glass
Belonging to the group is the crystal glass manufacturer Saint-Louis, the oldest crystal company in the world. Since its origin in 1586, Saint-Louis has drawn its inspiration from the great decorative periods of the 19th and 20th century, from Restoration to Modern Style, going through NapolÃ©on III, Art Nouveau and Art Deco â" the true essence of its identity. Saint-Louis became one of the HermÃ¨s Group MÃ©tiers in 1989.
At 31 December 2010, the HermÃ¨s family collectively owned a 62.79% stake in HermÃ¨s International S.A. through a number of individual and company holdings; the stake entitled the family to 73.96% of voting rights in the company. The luxury goods company LVMH held 20.21% of shares (amassed in the latter half of 2010) and 13.08% of votes at the same date, with 0.39% of shares held as treasury stock and the remaining 16.61% free float. Speculation that LVMH will launch a takeover bid for HermÃ¨s has been repeatedly denied by its chairman Bernard Arnault. Some industry insiders are in doubt, such as RenÃ© Weber, an analyst at ZÃ¼rich's Bank Vontobel, who has claimed: "Arnault is not afraid of a fight and a lot of his battles have been successful for him and his shareholders. Whether he can eventually succeed with [a takeover of] HermÃ¨s is still an open question." Bertrand Puech, who chairs the main HermÃ¨s family holding company, has criticised LVMH's acquisition of HermÃ¨s shares and called on the company to reduce its stake by half.
- "A Boutique Where You Don't Just Buy â" You Invest", Vogue, October 1974.
- Van Dyke, Grace, "HermÃ¨s: Old World Luxury in the New World", USA Today, July 1994.
- Dryansky, G.Y., "HermÃ¨s: Quality with a Kick", Harper's Bazaar, April 1986.
- Berman, Phyllis, "Mass Production? Yech!", Forbes, 22 September 1986.
- "Scarves Everywhere", The New Yorker, 30 January 1989.
- Aillaud, Charlotte, "The HermÃ¨s Museum: Inspiration for the Celebrated Family Firm", Architectural Digest (U.S.), January 1989.
- Tompkins, Mimi, "Sweatshop of the Stars", U.S. News and World Report, 12 February 1990.
- Gandee, Charles, "Jean-Louis Dumas-HermÃ¨s Is Flying High", House & Garden (New York), August 1990.
- "The Handbags to Have", The New York Times, 14 April 1991.
- "HermÃ¨s: Still in the Saddle", Women's Wear Daily, 25 September 1991.
- "HermÃ¨s of Paris, Inc.", The New York Times, 5 October 1991.
- Slesin, Susan, "Ah, the Horse", The New York Times, 21 May 1992.
- Ellena, Jean-Claude, Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent, New York: Arcade, 2009.
- Burr, Chandler, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York, New York: Henry Holt, 2007.
- Frimes, William, Jean-Louis Dumas, Chief of HermÃ¨s, Dies at 72, The New York Times, 3 May 2010.
- Colino, Nadine, The HermÃ¨s Scarf: History & Mistique, New York: Thames & Hudson, 2010.
- Rocca, Federico, HermÃ¨s - L'avventura del lusso, Torino, Lindau, 2011
- Official website