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Caroline Stanbury

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Hermès - A Tribute to Why Being 'Old Fashioned' is Sometimes Best

Posted: 27/08/2012 00:00

One question I am frequently asked is: "what is your favourite designer"? For some, this could be a question that needs considerable consideration and reflection but for me I know straight away - Hermès.

I obviously love the beautifully crafted products but my respect for the brand goes beyond this; it is an appreciation for a luxury company that has stuck to its heritage and almost rejoices in its "old fashioned" approach to business. And I believe this is why the label has managed to nurture a cult-like fascination from fashion followers whilst still charging eye-watering prices. Last financial year net profit at Hermès was up 41%.

I will spare you a potted history of the brand but this year Hermès turned 175 and it marked an all time high for the company. However, unlike many fashion brands, when you compare its early years to the present day, not much has changed at Hermès in the last century. Although there has been diversification into other areas, Hermès is still best known for its leather goods and beautifully printed silk scarfs, as well as its obsession with quality.

The complete rejection of mass-producing items means that the Hermès craftsmen are still based in Paris and can strictly only work on one item at a time. There have been whispers that it takes at least 10 years for Hermès artisan to be seen as "acceptable" and it can take up to 50 hours for just one Birkin handbag to be complete. Once any product is finished, if there is seen as being one tiny flaw on the item it is immediately rejected and either discarded or sold off to staff. It is this level of perfection that sees consumers hunger over each item and happily wait for three years to see their order fulfilled. And its tricky to think of many other fashion houses that can boast of producing almost of all of its products in the same city it was founded.

The tight control on quality has certainly attracted me to the brand; you know when you are buying a Hermès product it will last and be an investment piece. But what has always attracted me even more is that Hermès is not trend led.

Nowadays I see too many designers that feel its acceptable to charge outrageous prices but without the same nuance on quality and in a style that is likely to date in a few seasons, making it obsolete in a matter of months. Perhaps not on the same pricing scale, but we have all fallen victim to buying a coveted designer item only to look in our wardrobe two years later and wonder when we will wear it again.

Owning a Hermès product is like having a piece of fine jewellery - it rarely dates and will be an item you will pass down to the generations in your family. You only have to look at two of the most enduring Hermès products - the Kelly bag (introduced in the 1930s and renamed the Kelly in the 1960s) and the Birkin (introduced in the 1980s) - to see how the products have transcended a multitude of quick-lived fashion trends. I can't think of any other styles that have endured the test of time so well and still be proudly worn over a number of decades.

Even if you don't own a Hermès you cannot ignore the fact the brand is different from others. It doesn't resort to the usual PR stunts, glossy campaigns and paid-for celebrity endorsements; it just doesn't need to. And although the prices can be somewhat terrifying, we should rejoice in the fact that someone is still a champion of unprecedented quality and craftsmanship. Please do not think I am being critical of other designers - the work produced by all of the top fashion houses is innovative and nurtures fresh talent - but Hermès is in another league. And what is so exciting is that unlike the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry Hermès is proud of its slow approach to production, its focus on traditional designs and being a little bit old fashioned.

 

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