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Hermès  

M. B. Whitaker

French luxury goods and fashion house. Thierry Hermès (1801–78), a fine craftsman and artisan, opened a harness and saddle-making shop in Paris in 1837. It evolved into the House of Hermès, a world-renowned supplier of luxury leather goods, fashion apparel and accessories, fragrance, jewellery and gifts (see fig.).

Thierry Hermès’ dedication to quality, fine workmanship, and superior materials gained him a reputation as the most superb maker of harnesses in Paris. In 1879 the success of Thierry’s shop enabled his son, Emile-Charles (1835–1919), to expand the business and relocate to its present headquarters at 24, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The house supplied riding equipment to the best stables throughout Europe, including those belonging to royalty, such as the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, and Tsar Nicholas II.

Adolphe and Emile-Maurice (1871–1951), grandsons of Thierry, vigorously spearheaded the diversification of Hermès products when the introduction of motor vehicles began to threaten business. Hermès expanded their offering to include luggage, handbags and sporting equipment. Until then no fancy leatherwork had been done by saddle-makers and the Hermès saddle stitch style was an instant success. Furthermore, the fittings of their leather accessories inspired the vogue for harness motifs and hardware in sportswear....