January 9, 2005
The legendary French luxury goods house began as a saddle maker in Paris in 1880 under the name of Hermes-Freres. By the 20s Hermes had the patent for the zipper in France, and introduced the first ladies bags with zip closures. The company expanded into riding gloves, belts, and men and women’s sportswear, and designed the now famous travel trunks to meet needs of the new automobile drivers.
The infamous Kelly bag debuted in 1956 after Grace Kelly used a large crocodile handbag to hide her pregnancy. In the 1970s the first women’s shoe collection and the first complete men’s ready-to-wear collection were introduced.
Actress Jane Birkin replaced her old straw purse with a leather Hermes number in 1984, and started the rage that is the Birkin bag. Today the Birkin remains to have the longest waiting list of any luxury accessory-about six years. Hermes also has a complete home line, bed and bath linens, furniture, silverware, crystal and porcelain, office accessories, and baby gifts. In 2003 French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier joined the house as the women’s ready-to-wear designer and debuted his first collection for Fall/Winter 2004-05. In June 2004 perfumer Jean Claude Ellena took a post as the in-house perfumer and launched the successful Hermessence scent.
The height of luxury with a nod to the house’s equestrian heritage-sheared mink jackets, velvet jodhpurs, fringed blanket jackets, leather car coats, kilts. The accessories line has structured bags, belts with chunky hardware, signature printed silk scarves, and riding boots.
Paris-born Gaultier started his first fashion job in 1970, working for Pierre Cardin after school. It was at Jacques Esterel, however, where he honed his skills and developed his controversial signature style. In 1978, he launched his namesake line, and in the 80s he became quite a personality, taking on a role as a presenter on the campy Brit TV show, Eurotrash. Madonna commissioned him to design the clothes for her Blonde Ambition tour, where he produced her trademark pointed basque and bra and thus cemented his cult status. In 2003, Gaultier took over as chief designer at Hermes.
Hermes now make so many beautiful handbags of all shapes and sizes. Some of the most famous are:
Kelly Bag 1956 – named after Grace Kelly who was shown on the cover of Life magazine, holding the bag. Here is a picture.
Constance Bag – Jackie Onassis wore this shoulder bag with the double strap and big H clasp, so often that people often ask for the Jackie O bag.
Birkin Bag 1984 – named after Jane Birkin, the film star and model of the 1960′s, who met Jean-Louis when struggling to get her handbag on a plane overhead locker. There is a one-year waiting list for ladies ordering this bag.