17 October, 2018

Hermès - Is This Super Luxury?

As far as Hermès go, they reached the pinnacle of luxury. With over 180 years of hand-crafting experience, they have set the bar for quality in a host of categories.

The allure of Hermès is certainly overpowering as their revenues were over £5bn in 2017.

In this spotlight, we are going to explore their original story leading up to their ascent to super luxury and why their world famous Birkin bag has a 6-year waiting list!

But what is it about Hermès that sets them apart from the other juggernauts such as Kering, LMVH and Chanel? Well, determining their secret formula is difficult but a masterstroke was their avoidance of licensing.

Let's start from the beginning.

The Founder - Thierry Hermès

Thierry Hermès (1801–1878) opened his first workshop in 1837. With 10 years of experience already under his belt, the quality of his products was exceptional. Based in Paris, he produced harnesses and horse bridles and became popular with European aristocrats.  

Over the following decades, his reputation blossomed he became known as a fine quality saddlery retailer. He entered the international scene in 1880 and counted the Czar of Russia, The Prince of Wales and a host of celebrities as his customers.

Hermès began expanding their offerings by creating leather bags designed to feed horses and carry accessories such as horse saddles. 

Trivia - 'Haut a Courroies' was one of the first bags created by Hermès. It was designed to carry saddles among other equipment.

From this point onwards, Hermès continued to expand their product lines into Watches, Scarves, Perfumes, Jewellery and Ready-to-Wear. Now that you know the products which form part of the history of Hermès, which products went down in history?

Famous products by Hermès 

Celebrities and even royalty have immortalised products by Hermès and instilled a provenance which is second to none. Even the Queen of England is a fan of Hermès - or perhaps a little too much! 

Kelly Bag

The original name for this bag was 'Sac à Dépêche' upon its creation in 1935. How it became the Kelly Bag is down to the American media and Grace Kelly. Using the bag as a shield, it was plastered across the biggest magazines in America.

Once fans saw the bag, they bombarded stores asking for the 'Kelly Bag'. 

Trivia - The Kelly Bag was revisited and a smaller version was made in 1968.

Birkin Bag

Perhaps the most famous bags in the world. The story behind the Birkin Bag can be called chance or fate.

In 1983, Jane Birkin found herself sat next to Jean Louis Dumas, the director of Hermès, on a flight to Paris from London. After complaining about bags not being suitable for her needs, she envisaged the perfect bag and Hermès obliged and an icon was born.

Famous owners include Madonna, Victoria Beckham - who apparently has 100, Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman and anyone you can imagine. 

Did you know one sold for over £160,000? Read it here: Record Sale for Hermès Birkin Bag.

Silk Scarf

Launched in 1937, it's still one of their best sellers. What helped it along the way were the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly - she used it as a sling, Jackie Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth and more.

It's said that one is sold every 25 seconds! They are hand-printed with silk screens which ensure their quality.

The Hermès Box

Sometimes your greatest product can be something you don't even sell!

The orange box which houses a Hermès gift is an experience in itself. Similar to the Blue Box by Tiffany & Co, you know when you open the box, a part of you will change - forever.

Can it be argued that everyone remembers opening a Tiffany Blue Box or a Hermès orange box? Sure.

Earlier we mentioned Hermès avoidance to licensing. If you're wondering why then it revolves around control and ubiquity.

In Fashion, Ubiquity Can Kill Your Brand

Ubiquity is the state of being everywhere. Fashion houses like Burberry and Gucci felt the wrath of this as they struggled to reclaim their brand after licencing to the point of excess. How can a luxury brand fight against ubiquity? You can read more about that here: Fighting Against Ubiquity.

When a fashion house licenses their name, it means the seller can leverage their appeal and heritage to appeal to customers. The reason why fashion houses allowed this was for the financial returns. In hindsight, the consequences were huge! 

When your name appears on products you don't manufacture, your reputation and perceived quality is on the line. That in itself is worth its weight in gold for a brand like Hermès because their name is also their signature and so, they decided against licensing.

In return, they kept control of their brand and protected their exclusivity. Today, around 75% of the products they sell are made by them and the rest is closely monitored. Another example of a fashion house that realised the importance of control was Chanel.

Final Words

Is there such a thing as super luxury? Yes. The answer lies in the quality. What makes Hermès super luxury?

  • The same artisan makes the product from start to finish. 
  • Some of their products can take 18 months to make!
  • Some of the bags they receive for repair are 70 years old!
  • The Hermès experience starts when opening the box!

Hermès is still family owned and are into their sixth-generation. As Hermès continue to write their own history, their influence on fashion will ensure they are regarded as one of the greatest luxury fashion brands of all time.

Here at William George & Co, you can always find Hermès products available in our auctions. Head over their now!

Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès
Luxury Fashion House Spotlight - Hermès