Emile-Maurice Hermés, grandson of founder Thierry Hermés, summed up the philosophy of his family's celebrated firm in the 1920s as "Leather, sport, and a tradition of refined elegance." Passed down over generations, the House of Hermés has been committed to quality in design and production for more than 160 years. At the dawn of the 21th century, the name Hermés continues to represent the ultimate in French luxury.
Hermés began as a Parisian leather goods shop in 1837, making finely wrought harnesses, bridles, and riding boots for the carriage trade. As early as 1855 Hermés was earning accolades, winning first prize in its class at the 1855 Paris Exposition. Thierry's son Emile-Charles established the current flagship store at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where he introduced saddlery and began retail sales. Emile-Charles sold his stake in the company to his brother, Emile Maurice, who in turn was the true visionary of the Hermés family.
With the advent of the automobile, the firm adapted its careful saddle stitching techniques to the production of wallets, luggage, handbags, watchbands, and accessories for golfing, hunting, and polo playing, and began to design couture sportswear. All were made with the same fine materials and attention to detail as the original leather wares, and the firm continued to build on its reputation for quality. Hermés made fashion news in the 1920s by designing one of the first leather garments of the 20th century, a zippered golfing jacket, for the Prince of Wales. For a time the zipper was called the fermature Hermés, because of its European impact (Emile-Maurice had bought a two-year patent on the unusual Canadian invention).
Over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st, the cut of the clothing and the palettes may have changed, but the classic quality of Hermés designs have remained constant. Beyond mere status symbols, the firm's goods are the embodiment of simplicity and elegance in extremely well made and durable products. Whether it is a jacket of meltingly soft leather, a paisley silk dressing gown, a Kelly bag, a valise, or a carré, a Hermés purchase comes with the assurance that it will be stylish and appropriate for a lifetime. With more than 215 Hermés stores around the world and countless boutiques in high-end department stores in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., the Hermés name has certainly gained more prominence, but its goods land not in the hands of the masses but in the chosen few.
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