Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, Hermès initially manufactured horse bridles and harnesses for French nobility. The high-quality products allowed Hermès to win several awards in its early and grant the brand a prestigious reputation.
After the death of Thierry, his son, Charles-Émile, took over management and moved the shop to 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where it remains today. At this point, saddlery was added to the Hermès catalog and they began to sell in retail to the elite of Europe, North Africa, Russia, Asia and America.
Around 1900, Hermès introduced its first bag, Haut à Courroies, which was intended to carry saddles. The design was so popular, it inspired the smaller, more practical designs of the Kelly bag and the iconic Birkin bag. By 1914, there were 80 saddle craftsman employed with Hermès. At this point, Hermès was granted exclusive rights to use the zipper. Because of its exclusivity, the zipper became known as the Hermès fastener in France.
After Émile-Maurice’s wife complained that she couldn’t find a suitable handbag, he designed the first Hermès collection in 1922. Following the introduction of the handbag lines, Hermès branched into ready-to-wear, jewelry, watches and interior design items.
In the 1930s, iconic Hermès products were introduced. In 1935, the Sac à dépêches was introduced and after Grace Kelly was seen wearing in 1956, it was later renamed the Kelly bag. Silk scarves were introduced into the Hermès collection in 1937.
The current logo of a duc carriage was introduced in the ‘50s along with the iconic orange boxes and packaging. Although the company’s success seemed apparent, the Hermès workshops faced a two week lull in business during the ‘70s. However, a smart business strategy from Jean-Louis Dumas, son of Robert Dumas-Hermès, increased annual sales of $50 million in 1978 to $460 million in 1990.
After the president of Hermès was sat next to Jane Birkin, an English actress, on a place from Paris to London, the two came to design the now-iconic Birkin bag. The bag is the most expensive designer bag to this day with a price range from $10,000 to $120,000 for one bag. Due to the exclusivity and high demand, it was said that at one point the waitlist for the bag was six years long — the highest waitlist for a bag ever.
From 1837 to present, Hermès has produced handmade goods made of natural materials, following in the footsteps of Thierry Hermès. Even though some speculated that this was the cause for its diminish in sales in the ‘70s, the quality is what has set the brand apart since its start.