Hermès’ roots extend back to 1837, when a talented young saddlemaker by the name of Thierry set up a workshop in Paris. His distinction was recognised officially on a number of occasions at the Exposition Universèlle, but perhaps his most telling achievement was a client list of European nobility that included Napoléon III.
Thierry’s son Charles-Émile Hermès eventually took over and moved the workshop to 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris, where it has stood ever since. Charles-Émile started to expand the brands offerings and widen its clientele. In 1900, Charles-Émile made his company’s first saddlebag, which his son would eventually redesign for his wife. The Sac à Dépêches would later go on to become one of most famous handbags ever made.
The Sac à Dépêches didn’t see fame until the until the mid-fifties, when it appeared on the cover of Life magazine shielding actress-come-Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly’s pregnant stomach. So influential was Grace in fashion circles that the bag soon became a global symbol of luxury and its success meant the Sac à Dépêches was renamed the Hermès Kelly.
Now a leader in women’s handbags, Hermès started moving away from saddlery and towards haute couture. Its catalogue and reputation would soon be bolstered by another iconic actress, Jane Birkin. By chance, Jane had sat next to Hermès’ fourth-generation family CEO, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a plane and complained to him that there was no decent handbag with pockets. Jean-Louis Dumas allegedly sketched out a potential design on a sick bag while Jane suggested its various features and dimensions. Two years later the Hermès Birkin was born.
The Birkin and the Kelly are so revered not just thanks to their connection with global icons but also to their extraordinary quality and elegance. These bags, and all other Hermès handbags, take up to 48 hours to stitch and fashion by the hands of a single highly trained artisan. Hermès produces only a handful of each model per week from its Parisian atelier, which explains why they have waiting lists of anything up to five years.
Since 2014, Hermès has been under the reigns of Axel Dumas, who stands as the sixth generation of the bloodline. Despite being family owned, Hermès is one of the biggest global names in luxury and it offers a wide selection of items alongside its leather goods. Hermès continues to set the bar in the handbag industry and its pieces are the most exclusive on the market.