I think we’re all taken by the incredible mystique of the famous French fashion house, Hermès that has been with us for two centuries and is still owned and operated by the same family. From its beginnings in fine equestrian leather goods, they are – in the tumultuous year 2020 – best known for their handbags and many other items.
The elegant cover of the Hermès publication: for Spring and Summer 2020
My image of Hermès has always been rarified products at equally rarified prices so imagine my surprise when I recently received a very stylish publication of theirs in the mail. This 8 1/2” x 11” visual treat with 130 pages (artwork on 120) could never be called a catalog in the usual sense – even though it featured both male and female fashions. The cover was like an expensive hard cover book that opened up to a treasure trove of color and black-and-white photos, marvelous drawings, glam fashion shots and humorous captions in both single and double page spreads.
The famous Hermès watch with the Double Tour strap
If the purpose of this book was to pique my interest in Hermès – it definitely worked! I thought to myself, “I have to learn more about this incredible company that was founded by Thierry Hermès in 1837 as a harness workshop in Paris. Its main purpose was to create wrought iron harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade.”
Forty-one years later Thierry Hermès passed away and his son Charles-Emile took over his father’s workshop and moved the store to 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, where it remains to this day. In 1902, Charles-Emile retired and left his business to his son Emile-Maurice who became the first person in France to use a zipper – that became the “Hermes fastener.”
In 1922, the first leather bags were introduced and seven years later the company created its first couture fashions. In 1937 it introduced silk scarves followed by the creation of a perfume division. In 1951 Emile-Maurice died and the husbands of two great-granddaughters took over the company. This is also when Hermès began using their iconic orange boxes.
The striking Hermès scarf: prices range from $295 to $355; available in three sizes
In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly appeared on the cover of Life magazine and overnight the Hermès Sac a Depeches became “The Kelly Bag.” The iconic Birkin bag was named after British actress Jane Birkin in 1981.
In 2012 the fifth generation Hermès family member, Axel Dumas, was named CEO of the company and remains so today. Over the years the Birkin bag has been a better investment than stocks or gold. It can sell for a significant profit on the secondary market as folks are willing to pay a premium in order to get their hands on an unobtainable bag.
What makes the Birkin bag stand out from its competitors? There are several factors:
Are you a celebrity? If not, forget it! A London newspaper sent out three ladies to Hermès stores in Manchester, UK and London to buy a Birkin. The first went to Selfridges and was told none were available, even to view. The second one went to the Hermès shop on New Bond Street in London and was told, “there are none in stock” and they had “no idea when deliveries would come from Paris.”
A glam Hermès outfit – all photos are courtesy of Hermès
The third attempt to purchase a Birkin directly from a Hermès store in Manchester got this response, “There are none in the store and the waiting list was closed two years ago.”
When Hermès was contacted with all of the above they simply said, “Each store director worldwide is responsible for buying for their own store. They place seasonal orders twice a year. These are usually received six to 12 months later.”
I have no comment about all this – except to leave you with a quote from Business Insider: “Hermès Birkin bags are the most expensive bags in the world, ranging from $40,000 to $500.000 for a single bag. A 2017 study revealed that the value of Hermès Birkin bags has increased 500% in the last 35 years, an increase of 14% every year.”
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I just read an article that sounded – to me at least – like “a canary in a coal mine” or an early warning of danger. This piece, written by Joe Pompeo, appeared in the May 2020 issue of Vanity Fair magazine with the title “The British Tabloid Invasion” and a subtitle that read, “How the Daily Mail is conquering American gossip.”
The paparazzi horde, La Dolce Vita, 1960 – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
Apparently the good old U.S. is a nation of “not great” sleepers. Really? And I thought I was the only one! According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was revealed that one out of three Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Yikes!
For some time now I have been reading items in the media about Marie Kondo, the “tidying consultant” and I must admit, I’m completely baffled by the whole subject. She has been in the public eye since 2011, when her book The Life-Changing, Pulsing Magic of Tidying Up in Japan.
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