In 1837, Thierry Hermès (1801–1878) first established Hermès as a harness workshop on the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris dedicated to serving European noblemen.
He created some of the finest wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade. Over the following decades Hermes developed into one of the most famous saddlery retailers and they also began to produce leather bags to feed the horse, to house the saddles and to carry other accessories for riders such as boots, whips and riding hats. The horse really was the first Hermes client.
Hermès Frères advertisement, 1923
Here we outline the bags that Hermes produce and a little morsel of the extraordinary place in history this fashion house holds.
This was inspired by the nosebag for a horse to be able to feed whilst walking. This bag was simple, functional with raw edges and no lining.
Haut a courroies bag
Produced in 1900 this is the oldest bag produced by Hermes. It was a specially designed bag, with a high trapezoid shape, for riders to carry their saddles or other paraphernalia and is the closest product to the bags produced today.
This was used in the days of horse and carriage to be filled with hay and put round the neck of horses as a mobile manger. It was actually in 1958 that Hermes re-visited this mini-picnic kit and made it into a ladies’ holdall. The fashion house also transformed the original hook into a belt buckle.
In 1978 Evelyne Bertrand as head of Hermes Riding Department decided to offer the grooms a leather carry all for their brushes and sponges and so on. The bag which now bears her name had air holes and was in an H-shape set in a horse shoe oval.
It was In 1922, that the first leather handbags were introduced for us human clients. Émile-Maurice Hermes’ wife complained of being unable to find a suitable one to her liking. Thus the iconic leather luxury house was truly born as we know it today.
Jean- Paul Gaultier decided to complement his AW 2008 show with a bag that would speak of nature, of hunting and drew inspiration from the original Hermes riding bags.
Sac a depeches, Metta Catharina
The ship Frau Metta Catharina, which had sunk in 1786, was unearthed in the 1970’s by the English marine archeology society. Inside they found rolls of leather in perfect condition. Hermes purchased some of this leather in 1993 and produced this Sac a depeches, one of the house’s emblematic designs, from leather that had lain for more than 200 years at the bottom of the sea.
An overnight bag initially mentioned during the Renaissance. First fastened by cord, a Parisian manufacturer had the idea of adapting a lockable iron clasp called a feuillard for the overnight bag. He added two handles and a base allowing it to stand. This piece of luggage is what inspired Hermes to create the Mallette bag in the 1920’s.
Sac a depeches
This is essentially a sort of school bag satchel for men. ‘Depeches’ or dispatches was what was known as news and latest information. This bag was created in 1928 to carry these documents. Still the most popular for special orders at Hermes you can have any number of pouches and in any size.
Designed by Frederic Vidal this bag had the handles on the smaller sides allowing the bag to fold in on itself. One opens the bag by simply taking hold of the Hermes saddle rivet with thumb and index-finger. This is one of the fashion houses biggest success stories.
This is a country doctor’s bag converted into a modern carry all. Created in 2008, the year of ‘Indian Fantasies’ This bag has large sides which are attached to long fine handles.
This bag was inspired by a blanket-holder used in the 1920s. It was one of the first bags created by Hermes in soft unlined leather. It is made inside out and then at the end turned back out to produce a perfect lady like handbag.
This was created around 1930 and gained it’s name when Grace Kelly used it as a shield against the paparazzi and the image was shown on the cover of Time magazine. A perfect hand bag with the clasp that Hermes is renowned for.
In 1983 Jane Birkin sat beside Jean Louis Dumas, the director of Hermes, on a flight to London from Paris. She dropped her Hermes diary and papers spilled everywhere. She exclaimed no bag ever had enough pockets to hold all her papers! This is a large bag that was strong and beautiful and soon enough it was to be one of the most sought after designs in the world.
The word bolide meant meteor at first and then in the twentieth century the French called the fast new cars ‘bolides’. Emile Hermes created this bag for a friend who was passionate about the automobile in 1923. After finding the zipper in America he attached this to the bolide and the bag as we know it was born.
The clutch bag was created in 1938. It was closed by a sliver bolt and after Andy Warhols’ muse Ultra Violet returned the one Andy Warhol had once bought her to Hermes, the house decided to produce a new version with a silver and palladium bolt.
The designer Catherine Chaillet named the bag after her daughter Constance who was born, as was the bag in 1959. With a H-shaped fastener and a clever adjustable strap the bag can be worn over the shoulder or held by the side.
With so many wondrous stories and such an illustrious past, Hermes conjures up a story to it that many other fashion houses can’t even begin to compete alongside. The fact that the stunning bags they create remain so prized is testament to the fashion house’s design brilliance and luxurious quality.