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Brand History & Legacy

Hermès History: The Brand Behind The Birkin

Hermès history begins nearly 2 centuries ago! Since 1837, Hermès has cultivated collection after collection of French-inspired designer beauties! For 183 years, they have mastered the high-fashion industry. Their consistently high-end craftsmanship spares no expense, and their product quality and price tags reflect this! But how did Hermès become one of the biggest names in luxury fashion? Well, they mastered the world of designer and perfected their luxury handbags over hundreds of years!

Heritage Behind Hermès History

History Behind Hermes

The Story Behind The Brand Name Hermès

The origin story behind one of the biggest luxury brand names is an interesting one. Hermès, is actually the last name of the designer label’s founder.

But the name also comes from Greek mythology, it was the name of the Greek god of messengers and commerce.

Hèrmes Saddles

Not So Humble Beginnings

It may come as a surprise, but the Hermès fashion house has a history that extends far beyond handbags that have us doing double takes every time we think we've spotted one!

Hermès originally became famous in the early 1800's for their high-end harnesses and saddles. Which were custom-crafted for the European royals and the upper-class elite.

The Hermès horse and carriage logo remains emblematic of the brand's cultured foundation.

Hermes Logo

Long Line of Hermès Heirs & Heiresses

The brand name began with Thierry Hermès, who opened the first workshop in 1837. Hermès was then passed onto his son Charles-Émile Hermès and then Charles’ sons Adolphe and Émile-Maurice.

Robert Dumas, the son-in-law of Émile-Maurice took over Hermès after Émile’s death. Robert was the first person in charge of Hermès who was not a direct descendant of Thierry Hermès. He was only tied to the Hermès brand and family through marriage.

Once Robert took on the top position, he felt it was time to incorporate the Hermès name into his surname, and ever since he was Dumas-Hermès.

Pierre Alexis Dumas, the current artistic director, and Axel Dumas, the CEO, are 6th generation descendants of the founder of Hermès. They were not given their seats by default.

They “started from the bottom” and had to prove their worth to reach the top, just like everyone else.

History of Hermès

Hermès History: 1837 - 1900

1837 - Thierry Hermès established Hermès, originally as a harness workshop, serving European noblemen.

1855 - The high quality harnesses and bridles crafted by Hermès gained recognition, winning many awards including the First Class Medal of the Exposition of Paris. 

1878 - Thierry Hermès passed away.

1880 - Hermès’s son, Charles-Emile Hermès, took over his father’s workshop and moved the store to 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, where it still stands to this day. He started focusing on international retail sales catering to the elite of Europe, Russia, North Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Hermès History: 1900 - 1950

1902 - Charles-Emile retired, leaving the business to his sons, Adolphe and Emile-Maurice.

1914 - Emile-Maurice began equipping the czars of Russia. Due to this, Emile-Maurice gained exclusive rights to the use of the zipper on leather goods and clothing. He became the first person in France to introduce the zipper.

1922 - The first leather handbags were created after Emile-Maurice’s wife complained that she was not able to find a handbag that she truly loved. The bag was a smaller version of the ‘Haut a Courroies’ and was personally designed by Emile-Maurice. Talk about couple goals!

1924 - Hermès established its presence in the USA and opened two new stores in France.

1929 - Hermès introduced the first women’s haute couture apparel collection.

1935 - Hermès launched one of their most recognisable and iconic handbags, the Sac a depeches bag, which would later become known as the Kelly bag.

1937 - Hermès introduced the silk scarf, which instantly became a huge hit with celebrities, like Jacqueline Kennedy. 

Hermès History: 1950 - 2000

1951 - Emile-Maurice Hermès passed away and Robert Dumas Hermès, husband of Jacqueline Hermès, took over the company. With the help of Jean Rene Guerrand, husband of Aline Hermès. Both Jacqueline and Aline were great-granddaughters of Thierry Hermes.

Early 1950s - Hermès began to use their legendary caliche logo. At this time Hermes also began using their iconic orange boxes.

1956 - A photograph of Grace Kelly, the Hollywood actress who became a Monaco Princess, carrying a Hermes Sac a Depeches to hide her pregnant belly “graced” the front cover of Life Magazine. Suddenly women were flooding Hermès stores asking for the ‘Kelly Bag’. In response Hermès renamed the Sac a Depaches as the Kelly.

1978 - Great-great-great-grandson of Thierry Hermès, Jean Louis Dumas, took over the company and purchased the building next to 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, expanding their flagship in Paris.

1981 - The iconic Birkin bag was officially introduced, named after British actress Jane Birkin. 

Hermès History: 2000 - Today

2003 - Jean Louis Dumas retired and Patrick Thomas became the new head of Hermès.

2007 – Hermès purchased 28 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, and once again expanded its flagship store in Paris. 

2012 - Sixth generation Hermès family member, Axel Dumas, became CEO of Hermès and still remains in this position today.

Buying Hermès In South Africa

Where To Buy Hermes In South Africa

Because Hermès doesn’t have an official store in South Africa, it can be much more difficult to get your hands on a Kelly or Birkin bag here than anywhere else in the world. However, if you have designer dreams of owning an original Hermès handbag one day, Luxity often receives highly coveted Hermès items on a regular basis and actually sold a gorgeous Kelly bag for R150,000 in 2017!

To have a look at our selection of Hermès beauties, check out Luxity’s online store, and be sure to set up some interests so you can be notified next time we receive a new Hermes item! This will give you have the chance to buy your very own Hermès beauties before they’re sold!