Hermès: A Historical Snapshot of the World’s Oldest Luxury Designer Brand

Hermès: A Historical Snapshot of the World’s Oldest Luxury Designer Brand

Back in 1837, when Thierry Hermès first setup a harness workshop on Paris’ Grand Boulevards area, little did he know that Hermès would grow to become France’s most prominent and iconic luxury fashion brand. You see, Hermès was introduced as workshop for designed premium leather saddles and equestrian accessories for the European elite. Over time, Hermès branched out towards other riding supplies, luggage and finally, designer handbags.

But Hermès’ history goes long beyond the famed Kelly and Birkin bags. Did you know that the first bag designed by the brand was purely for carrying riding accessories? In fact, it was advertised as a premium leather bag to carry saddles and equestrian supplies with style. Hermès carved out exclusivity with its superior craftsmanship, high quality leather and of course, it’s Duc carriage and horse logo.

Over the years, the brand branched out with a vast host of luxury products, including leather goods, lifestyle products, home improvement essentials, accessories, jewelry, watches, perfumes and exclusive lines of ready-to-wear attire.


Journey from Saddlery to Fashion

It didn’t take long for Thierry Hermès to win recognition for designing the finest saddles, bridles and harnesses in Europe. He developed Hermès into the most popular brand for equestrian supplies and saddlery. Gradually, Hermès began expanding its product portfolio with leather bags to feed horses, carrying saddles, and even accessories, like riding gloves, hats, boots and whips.

Funnily enough, Hermès premier clients were horses of the European nobility. In 1900, Hermès introduced its oldest creation, the Haut a courroies bag, a trapezoid-shaped bag to carry saddles and riding supplies. Another noteworthy creation, the Picotin bag rose to fame for its simplicity and style. Its design was inspired by the nosebag that allowed horses to eat while walking.

The Trim bag, another remarkable work of leather craftsmanship, was introduced as a mobile feeding station for horses. In 1958, the trim bag underwent a major transformation and was reinvented into a tote bag for ladies.

In 1978, Hermès introduced the iconic Evelyne bag for grooms to carry all their equestrian essentials in style. It was designed by Evelyne Bertrand, who at the time headed the riding department and wanted to offer a leather carry-all accessory for grooms. The bag, her namesake, featured an H-shape design to mimic the oval horse shoe.


Catering to Human Clients

When did Hermès start catering to human clients? Interestingly, it happened when the wife of Émile-Maurice Hermes complained about the lack of functional and charming leather bags to complement her attire and carrying her belongings. So, the first ladies bag was designed for Hermes’ wife. The Sac-mallette bag was introduced in the 1920s as a fashionable weekender bag.

The iconic Kelly bag was introduced in 1930 to pay homage to the iconic style diva, Grace Kelly and her love for the Parisian brand. In 1983, Hermès introduced its most legendary creation, the famed Birkin bag, after a chance encounter between socialite Jane Birkin and Jean Louis Dumas, the then director of the brand.

In 1993, Hermès introduced its Sac a depeches, crafted with 200-years old leather founded in the sunken ship Frau Metta Catharina, which was unearthed during the 1970s.


Final Thoughts

Many argue that Hermès’ rise to fame is accredited to its celebrity collaborations and its two most iconic creations, the Kelly and Birkin bags. But true fashion connoisseurs know that the brand was always destined for glory, given its fine eye for details and splendid leather craftsmanship.