How Hermès went from a humble saddlery to fashion behemoth while retaining its French soul

In the heart of Paris, on the bustling Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, stands the iconic Hermès flagship store, a testament to the enduring legacy of a brand that has captured the world’s imagination for over 180 years. From its humble beginnings as a harness workshop to its current status as a global luxury empire, Hermès has come a long way, carving a path of innovation, craftsmanship, and unparalleled success.

This French luxury brand, founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, began as a harness workshop in Paris, specializing in crafting exquisite horse saddles and harnesses for the elite. With an unwavering commitment to using only the finest materials and an eye for meticulous detail, Thierry quickly gained a reputation for excellence, attracting the patronage of the nobility and aristocracy.

Over the years, Hermès expanded its offerings beyond equestrian goods, introducing a diverse range of luxury products that exemplify the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship and quality. From leather handbags to silk scarves, fragrances to ready-to-wear clothing, Hermès has become synonymous with timeless luxury, coveted by connoisseurs around the world.


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The Art of Craftsmanship: A Testament to Tradition and Innovation
At the heart of Hermès’ success lies its unparalleled craftsmanship, passed down through generations of skilled artisans. Each Hermès product is a testament to the brand’s dedication to preserving traditional techniques while embracing innovation.

Take, for example, the process of crafting a Hermès leather handbag. From carefully selecting the finest hides to hand-stitching each piece with precision, the craftsmanship involved is nothing short of a work of art.

As of 2022, the number of saddler-leatherworkers employed by the group stood at more than 4,300, across 24 sites all across France. The same level of attention to detail applies to other iconic Hermès products, such as the silk scarves, meticulously hand-printed with vibrant, intricate designs that tell their own stories.

Innovation is also a hallmark of Hermès’ success. The brand has consistently pushed the boundaries of design and craftsmanship, creating iconic products that stand the test of time. The introduction of the Birkin handbag in 1978 was a game-changer, redefining the concept of luxury handbags and setting a new standard for exclusivity and craftsmanship. With its unique combination of innovation and tradition, Hermès continues to captivate fashion enthusiasts and collectors alike.

See also: The tourist’s guide to shopping at Champs-Élysée

How Hermès Cultivated a Cult Following and Brand Loyalty
One of the key factors contributing to Hermès’ success is its cult following and unwavering brand loyalty. Hermès has cultivated a loyal clientele that spans generations, who appreciate the brand’s timeless elegance, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. Owning a Hermès product is not just about owning a luxury item; it is about owning a piece of heritage, a symbol of status and prestige.

The brand’s exclusivity and limited production also contribute to its desirability. Hermès deliberately maintains a sense of scarcity, with limited quantities of its products released each year, creating an aura of rarity and exclusivity. This approach has fostered a strong sense of brand loyalty among its discerning clientele, who eagerly await the release of new collections and are willing to join lengthy waiting lists to secure their coveted Hermès pieces.

A Commitment to the Future
In today’s world, sustainability and ethical practices have become important considerations for luxury brands, and Hermès is no exception. The brand has been a pioneer in sustainability, long before it became a mainstream concern. Hermès has a deep respect for the environment, using sustainable materials and production processes, and promoting animal welfare in its sourcing practices.

For instance, Hermès has its own crocodile and alligator farms, ensuring that the animals are ethically treated and the skins are sourced responsibly. The brand also has a strong commitment to supporting local communities and preserving traditional craftsmanship skills, such as partnering with local artisans in France to create its iconic silk scarves, which are hand-printed using environmentally-friendly processes.

Hermès also takes a proactive approach to reducing waste and promoting circularity. The brand encourages its customers to repair and restore their Hermès products, offering a comprehensive repair service that extends the lifespan of its products and minimizes their environmental impact. Additionally, Hermès has initiatives to repurpose and upcycle materials, such as transforming silk scarves into limited edition collectors’ items or using leather offcuts to create small leather goods.

Diversification and Global Presence
While Hermès is renowned for its leather goods and accessories, the brand has expanded its horizons to diversify its product offerings. Hermès now offers a wide range of luxury products, including ready-to-wear clothing, footwear, jewelry, watches, fragrances, and home decor. This diversification has allowed Hermès to cater to a broader customer base and maintain its relevance in the ever-evolving luxury market.

Furthermore, Hermès has a strong global presence, with boutiques and stores in major cities around the world. The brand has successfully established a global retail network while maintaining its commitment to craftsmanship and quality, ensuring that customers can experience the Hermès magic wherever they are.


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It has also embraced technology in a massive way to cater to the changing needs of its customers in the digital age. The brand has launched its e-commerce platform, allowing customers to shop online and explore its products from the comfort of their homes. Hermès has also leveraged social media and digital marketing to engage with its audience and tell its brand story in a modern and relevant way.

Despite embracing technology, Hermès has remained true to its core values and maintained its commitment to craftsmanship and near impossible exclusivity. The brand continues to focus on creating unique, handcrafted products that stand the test of time, ensuring that its heritage and legacy remain intact in the digital era.

Despite its global expansion, the brand remains a family-controlled company, with the sixth generation of the Hermès family actively involved in the business. This long-term vision and commitment to family ownership have allowed Hermès to maintain its independence and preserve its heritage, ensuring that the brand’s values and traditions are upheld.

This is despite running 52 workshops supplying to 300 stores in 45 countries. Till date, the group employs some 17,600 people across the world, including nearly 11,000 in France, among whom nearly 6,000 are artisans.

Hermès is a brand that has transcended generations, captivating the hearts of luxury connoisseurs around the world with its timeless elegance, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. From its humble beginnings as a harness workshop to its global presence today, Hermès has remained true to its core values of tradition, innovation, sustainability, and family ownership.

It has certainly set a standard that is truly unparalleled in the world of fashion and craftsmanship.

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