The French house of Hermès has a history firmly established in saddlery and fine equestrian leather goods. From its 1837 beginnings in a small workshop in Paris, to creating the most exclusive handbag in the world, Hermès has certainly come a long way. Learn about the history of Hermès with this brief infographic, or dig deeper into the story of this French luxury house in the timeline below.
1801. Thierry Hermès is born in Krefeld, Germany, to Thierry Hermès, a French immigrant father and Agnese Kuhnen, who was German. Krefeld is known as the Stadt wie Samt und Seide, or “City of Velvet and Silk” in Germany, because of its textile industry. (1)
1827. Thierry Hermes moves to Pont Audemer, north of Paris, where he learns the trade of leather making, and begins making harnesses.
1831. Thierry and his wife, Petronille Pierrtant (1805-1896) welcome their first son, Charles-Émile Hermès (1831-1876).
1837. Thierry Hermès establishes the French house of Hermès, in a workshop in Paris’ 9th arrondisement.
1855. Hermes win the First Class Medal of the Exposition in Paris (4).
1859. Charles-Emile Hermes takes over the Hermes workshop.
1867. Hermès wins a first class medal at the Exposition Universelle (4).
1878. Thierry Hermes passes.
1880. Charles-Émile Hermès moves the workshop to 24 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the famed address where the workshop stands to this day. At first, this building was used exclusively as an atelier.
1889. Hermes opens a store next to the atelier.
1900. Hermès designs the Haut à Courroies bag, intended to allow rider to carry their saddles with them.
1902. Adolphe and Émile-Maurice Hermès, Thierry Hermès’ grandchildren, take over the business and rename it Hermes Frères, or Hermès Brothers.
1918. At the time, Hermes was granted exclusive rights to use zippers, and the maison creates the very first gold jacket with a zipper for Edward, Prince of Wales.
1919. After seeing a decline in sales of horse harnesses and equipment, Adolphe Hermès leaves the company. Émile-Maurice buys his shares.
1922. The first Hermes leather handbag is introduced, when Émile-Maurice wife’s couldn’t find a bag to her liking. The bag is a smaller version of the Haut à Courroies (6).
1929. Hermès unveils a womenswear line, which includes bathing outfits.
The original Hermès Kelly handbag, in exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo: REX FEATURES
1935. Hermès introduces the Sac à dépêches bag, which would later be known as the Kelly Bag (4) (6).
1937. The first Hermes silk scarf is introduced (2), measuring 90×90 cm., this square scarf, or carré was a hit with celebrities of the time, like Jacqueline Kennedy (3).
1949. Hermes sells its first tie.
1950. The perfume division of Hermes is established (2).
1950s. Hermès begins to use a caléche (5) logo, based on a drawing by French painter Alfred de Dreux. In the early 50s, Hermès also begins utilizing their iconic orange boxes.
1951. Émile-Maurice Hermès dies, and Robert Dumas Hermès, husband of Jacqueline Hermès, takes over the company alongside perfumer Jean René Guerrand, husband of Aline Hermès, both great-granddaughters of Thierry Hermès.
1956. A picture of Hollywood-actress-turned-Monegasque-Princess, Graces Kelly, carrying Hermès’ Sac à Depèches, is published on Life magazine. Women flood Hermès stores, asking for the “Kelly Bag.” Hermès rebaptizes the Sac à Depèches, as the “Kelly.”
1978. Jean Louis Dumas, great-great-grandson of Thierry Hermès, takes over the company. That same year, Hermès purchases the building next to 24 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, expanding the Paris flagship.
1984. The Birkin bag, named after British actress Jane Birkin, is introduced.
2003. After Jean Louis Dumas’ retirement, Patrick Thomas becomes the head of Hermès.
2007. Once again, the Paris flagship store expands with the purchase of 28 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
2012. Sixth generation Hermès family member Axel Dumas is named CEO, and remains so as of January 2015.