|Aug 11, 2006, 9:06pm||#17|
Here is something I have found, it a short interview with the CEO of Hermes USA.
In Pursuit of Luxury: Robert Chavez, CEO of Hermès USA, Discusses Prestige, Handbags, and Counterfeiting
By: Rodney Reid (OH), Viewpoints Editor
Followers of the HBO series Sex in the City will remember the episode in which Samantha (Kim Catrall) went to absurd lengths to acquire a Hermès Birkin handbag. Samantha's over-the-top pursuit of the handbag could very easily serve as a proxy for the actual heights that legions of real handbag-obsessed women will climb in order to sink as little as $5,000 and as much as $80,000 into owning this bag. What is it about the rounded double handle, tiny metal feet, the fold-over top and the belt-like closure that wraps around the bag's body that drives women to endure the reported two-year waitlist? Well for one thing, the Hermès Birkin bag is the handbag equivalent of a Rolls-Royce or a dozen illicit Cuban cigars.
First introduced in 1984, the bag has surged in popularity over the past couple of years due to television spotlights and unexpected media exposure, like Martha Stewart showing up for a court appearance carrying one in a warm shade of brown. The handbag's creator, French luxury goods stalwart Hermès, is use to all the attention however, given the equally global popularity of Hermès ties, scarves, and fragrances. I spoke recently with Robert Chavez, CEO of Hermes USA, to get to the bottom of all the excitement.
Harbus: How has Hermès been able to maintain its prestigious image?
Robert Chavez: The company has maintained its prestigious image because of its commitment to quality and craftsmanship that it has adhered to since the day it started back in 1837. We continue to be very committed to hand-crafted products created by the finest craftsmen in Europe and to making products of the finest materials.
Harbus: Was the company surprised by the wild success of the Birkin Bag?
RC: Obviously we expected to have a good response to the bag, but we were surprised by the extent of the bag's popularity. I think one of the things that makes it so desirable is that it is very functional. Also, I think our clients appreciate the quality of the leather, the quality of the workmanship, and the beauty of the design. The bag was designed in house and inspired by Jane Birkin herself.
Harbus: Does product placement on television have an impact on sales?
RC: The results from a product being placed on a television show can be remarkable. It happened to Hermès a couple of years back when one of our bags was featured on an episode of Sex in the City. Part of the episode focused on the lengths one of the characters was going to in order to obtain our Birkin bag. Immediately after the show, our phones started ringing all across the country.
Harbus: How do products get placed on television shows?
RC: For Hermès, it is really happen stance. Generally, someone will call us and make a request to put Hermès products in their show or to have someone on their show use Hermès products. It's great when it happens, but we don't chase after product placements.
Harbus: Is counterfeiting a problem, given the popularity of the Birkin handbag.
RC: We are very diligent about pursuing counterfeit products that reach the market and we take action on them when necessary. We take counterfeiting seriously because this type of infringement on our registrations and trademarks is very damaging to our brand. For instance, if a person is walking down the street and sees someone carrying what looks like a Hermès bag from a distance, they might not know for sure if the bag is an actual Hermès handbag. If the person makes a mistake an assumes that a counterfeit bag is a real Hermès bag and the counterfeit bag is of poor quality, the person might walk way believing that Hermès does not have the level of craftsmanship that they thought it had.
Harbus: What exactly does craftsmanship mean?
RC: In addition to only using the finest materials, we are able to make extremely high quality handbags because only one craft person makes each of our bags from start to finish. Most manufacturing today uses an assembly line, which results in one person doing a couple of parts of a bag and then someone else doing another couple of parts of it and so on. At Hermès, one person works on a handbag from start until finish. It takes anywhere from 18 to 24 working hours for one person to complete one bag.
Harbus: So what's new at Hermès?
RC: Every year we continue to come out with new and exciting things. This year we introduced a new women's fragrance, Merveilles. Also for this fall season we launched our new women's ready-to-wear collection designed by John Paul Gauthier.
Harbus: Besides being French, why else was John Paul Gauthier given the nod?
RC: Hermès became a 35 percent investor in John's company a few years back, so the relationship was already there. When Martin Margiela, the pervious women's wear designer, contract was nearly up, we started discussing who would take over and John seemed like the logical choice. And as expected, John has been terrific.
|Aug 11, 2006, 9:25pm||#18|
Here is another article I have found.
From washingtonpost.com - nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines
Hermes v. Hermes
By Annie Groer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 28, 2006; 1:49 PM
Paper or plastic? Somehow we manage that decision quickly, almost reflexively. But Kelly or Birkin? That is a far more serious matter, and not just because it involves three or four zeroes. Choosing between these two iconic bags is far more complicated.
While both styles exude money (old, new, discreet, flashy), each signals to the world, or at least to an international pack of fashion hounds, a very different aesthetic and vibe.
"The Kelly is a touch more formal, a little more appropriate for an evening out, a business dinner, as a more refined look. The Birkin is more sporty, more casual. Often people use it as a briefcase, throw in a change of shoes," says Trina Sams-Manning, manager of the Hermes shop in Fairfax Square, which recently reopened after a major facelift.
Inga Guen, who sells gently used Kellys and Birkins at Inga's Once Is Not Enough, a high-end consignment shop in Northwest Washington, is even more emphatic about the difference. "A woman who is going to wear the Kelly is of very erect stature, she comes from money, very good background, is extraordinarily educated, and life to her is one where she will be very inconspicuous," says Guen, an avid Kelly carrier. She cuts a bit of slack for the Birkin femme, who "wears Manolo mules, a pair of jeans, a little Chanel jacket. She is the younger woman."
Both bags have made their marks on the cultural landscape. In "Le Divorce," a red crocodile Kelly was a sure sign that young Isabel was having having an affair with someone rich enough to buy her this five-figure confection.
The Birkin became an intense object of desire on "Sex and the City," when Kim Cattrall's Samantha told Hermes she needed one instantly for a client. Yes, it was a big fat lie, but morally defensible in social circles where owning a bag that can cost as much as a car is, like, truly, seriously important.
Conversely, a Birkin may have worked against Martha Stewart, who schlepped her well-worn Hermes to court during her 2004 insider trading trial, to the derision of critics who thought the super-expensive bag might not play well with a middle-class jury.
For the uninitiated, these bags, which start at about $7,000 and can top $25,000 depending on hide and hue, are named for a duo of beautiful actresses.
Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly -- so blonde, so patrician -- had been wed less than a year to Prince Rainier of Monaco when she deftly obscured her royal pregnancy with a structured, crocodile Hermes purse on a 1956 Life magazine cover. Created in 1892 as a large saddle carrier -- the French fashion house started out as a saddlemaker -- the bag was downsized for daywear in the 1930s. But after its moment in Life, it was dedicated to Her Serene Highness, and, as legends often do, lives on after her.
By contrast, it was during a 1981 airplane flight that the effluvia in British-born actress-singer Jane Birkin's overstuffed purse spilled in the vicinity of Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes. Three years later, the venerable firm introduced a bag for Birkin's more bohemian lifestyle based on an 1892 design. In a splendid bit of irony, Birkin recently confessed she barely used hers because it had proved hazardous to her health.
"I told Hermes they were mad to make it. My one was always full, and it ended up giving me tendinitis," she told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper in March.
Like the Kelly, the Birkin is crafted entirely by hand by a single artisan from start to finish, and embellished with a petite padlock, keys and gleaming hardware made of white or yellow gold.
Why, exactly, are they so expensive, so obsessively coveted?
For starters, they are beautifully made. ... The bottom is built of three layers of leather. A single artisan can spend up to 25 hours painstakingly constructing a Kelly or Birkin.
And oh, the hides: silky smooth or pebbly textured calfskin; exotic lizard, crocodile and ostrich, in colors that span the spectrum. The immutable laws of supply, demand and merchandising are also at work here. Make something fabulous, in fabulously limited quantities, and people will clamor to own it. At Hermes in Fairfax -- where just a handful of objects cost under $150, such as those itty-bitty leather holders for Post-it notes -- 200 people fervently await the arrival 60 Birkins in any given season, said manager Sams-Manning. Their names are entered onto what she calls "a wish list."
Such controlled scarcity explains why the resale market is so strong.
Two years ago, an anonymous Midwesterner put 11 Hermes bags on the auction block at Doyle New York, including a 2002 black crocodile Birkin she had customized with 484 small diamonds set in the white-gold hardware. The presale estimate was $25,000 to $35,000, but when the hammer fell, the winning bidder ponied up $64,250.
"It was bought ostensibly by a gentleman for his wife," said Clare Watson, Doyle's director of couture, noting that the victor outbid another deep-pocketed chap.
In April, Inga Guen sold one consignment client a taupe ostrich Kelly for $6,000 and told another that the Birkin she'd just bought on eBay was a fake. Taped to the top of the desk in her cluttered office is the small tipsheet Guen penned to help patrons avoid getting scammed: The stitching "is diagonal /////// not horizontal -------." Or as she later explained, "the stitching goes always uphill."
So, apparently, does the satisfaction level among chic women who may save for years to buy one. "I treated myself to a Birkin when I was still working, before my first child was born," said one fashionista, seeking anonymity "because my husband has no idea how much it cost."
The very luckiest women get them the old-fashioned way; well, actually, the second-oldest old-fashioned way -- as a family legacy.
"I think I have about six or seven," said Veronique Danforth, public information service coordinator at the World Bank. "I am French, so I have been raised with those bags around me. I got my first one when I was 17. Some are 40 years old and look as if they were bought yesterday."
|Aug 12, 2006, 2:49am||#21|
From Harper's Bazaar
Hermes Heats Up
One of fall 2004's most exuberant collections was Jean Paul Gaultier's debut show at Hermes, unveiled at the Ecole Militaire in March in Paris, where the audience sat surrounded, aptly enough, by bales of hay. Gaultier, 52, had wasted no time taking the house's equestrian tradition and twisting it into something totally of the moment. He cut a trim riding jacket in rich, shiny croc and transformed the saddle -- Hermes' hallmark piece into a stunning corset and topped it with the house's signature mini padlock. Coats were fashioned in orange fabric (Hermes' trademark shade), while its famous brown, logo-emblazoned ribbon became a print on dresses. The looks were completed with whips, jodhpurs and top hats. Gaultier, not unfamiliar with the high standards of chairman and CEO Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes (his house owns part of Gaultier's namesake company), has masterfully taken on the 167-year-old brand by exercising his well-known wit on Hermes heritage.
It's not only the clothes that Gaultier has tinkered with: he has also re-imagined some of the house's legendary bags. He took the Trim bag (which Jackie O. religiously toted) and added heavy metal chains; restructured the Birkin (named after actress Jane Birkin) into and elongated shoulder bag; and miniaturized the bag that Grace Kelly made famous.
Whether one of Gaultier's modern updates or classic cut, and Hermes bag is iconic. So what does blowing the budget on one get you? "Instant social status," says Clair Watson, director of couture at the Doyle New York auction house. And when making such an investment, how do you know what bag to buy? In what skin? In what size? "The Birkin is the trendiest. One with silver palladium hardware are the most sought after," reports Terin Fischer, owner of New York designer-consignment shop Fisch for the Hip. "Palladium hardware came about in the mid-'90s, so those who want to keep the tradition of Hermes buy gold." And the texture you choose makes a difference as well. "The smoother, box-calf leather is more elegant -- it's not for the girl running around all day -- while the textured Togo leather is tougher, better for an everyday bag," she explains. Fischer also says a medium-size 35-cm Birkin is the most desired, but some who are lucky enough to own multiples are now buying the largest size, 40 cm, and using it as a diaper bag. "Th husbands love it because the can carry it and it doesn't look like a purse," she says. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, where women live out of their cars and not their handbags, there is a trend toward smaller Birkins -- Demi Moore has been seen with a wee size (25 cm) in hand.
While Hermes says that its Birkin waiting list is closed, there is talk that A-listers can walk into stores and buy the covetable bags. But how can you get you hands on one? Occasionally Birkins do pop up in boutiques, for sale to the public, so keep your eyes open and be ready to make the purchase on the spot. Another route to take is vintage and consignment shops. Cameron Silver, owner of L.A. vintage emporium Decades (Renee Zellweger bought a croc Kelly there), says there is just something about a pre-owned bag. "It's a better investment, especially a Kelly," explains Silver. "It's also a matter of taste. I think the 60's crocodile skins are superior." No matter what extreme you go to get a bag, rest assured, your effort will be worth it. "Hermes bags are the best-made bags in the world," says Fischer, a proud owner of 13. "They're perfect."
|Aug 12, 2006, 3:28am||#22|
Hermes Birkin bags are Well Known in the World of Hand Bags
There are huge varieties of fashion groups like Gucci or Channel. They offer different collections in all possible areas. You can easily find all the latest examples of perfume, clothes or fashionable accessories from famous designers of world known fashion houses.
One of such fashion houses that are well-known all over the world is Hermes. Hermes is possibly the most legendary Paris (French) brand in fashion. The history of this house started in 1880 in Paris. And as most of similar brands at first it was only a saddle shop known under the name "Hermes-Freres". But soon (in 1920s) things started to change fast. This company got a license in France on "zipper" and soon they introduced a series of women bags with zippers. And that was a breakthrough - soon they started to produce a huge range of different leather products like bags, gloves and belts.
In 1956, the infamous Hermes Kelly bags were introduced by Hermes for the first time. Collaboration between the already famous brand Hermes and the great actress Grace Kelly made the Hermes Kelly bags collection well-known. And in fact the origin of this collaboration is pretty interesting. There were originally no intentions to market the bags. Grace Kelly simply wanted to hide her pregnancy at the time, so she used a big crocodile bag for that. Word of mouth spread as this new bag was noticed in print and television and before you know it new style was born.
Around 1971 Hermes brand introduces its first shoe collection. That was another "step forward" in the development of fashion house.
And a little bit later - in 1980 - Hermes group changed the situation with infamous Hermes Kelly bags collection - they introduced Jane Birkin bags. The design of Jane Birkin became very popular. Until modern days it is so famous and so popular that waiting list for Hermes Birkin bags is about six years. That is probably the longest waiting list in the world for the fashionable bags. And Hermes Birkin bags collection these days include a huge number of options. Among Hermes Birkin bags you can find different sorts of bags from pretty simple to very luxurious leather bags. But Hermes is well-known not only by the Hermes Birkin bags collection - now they offer different kinds of furniture, silverware and even office accessories.
Since 2003, the different Hermes collections are even more popular and well-known in the world. At that time, the famous designer Jean-Paul Gaultier joined Hermes group. In the group he took a position of "ready to wear" collections for women designer. His fist collection in Hermes group appeared in fall of 2004. For today Jean-Paul Gaultier is a chief designer in Hermes group. He was making clothes for "Blonde Ambition tour" for Madonna. But there are many other celebrities who wear Hermes clothes. Some of the world wide known names are Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Elle McPherson. These women like not only clothes but also accessories and perfumes of Hermes house.
The perfume section of the Hermes group is also developing very fast. In 2004, Jean Claude Ellena, the famous perfumer joined the group. Eventually, a new "Hermessence" scent was introduced. It soon became very successful.
|Aug 12, 2006, 12:44pm||#27|
Luxury in bag at HermèsBy Paula Rath
Advertiser Fashion Writer
Sayuri Taniguchi was sitting on the doorstep of 2201 Kalakaua Ave., wearing jeans, a T-shirt and rubber slippers and doing her homework.
Hermès CEO Robert Chavez had high praise for the collaborative efforts of Hermès and renowned designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Photos by Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser
The Kelly bag was named after Grace Kelly, who used it to conceal her pregnancy in a photo shoot. This orange crocodile version sells for $13,600. The Twilly scarf, a limited edition commemorating the opening of the Waikiki store, is $110.She had been waiting for an hour, with another hour to go before the new Hermès boutique opened its doors.
"If this was Japan, there would be 300 people waiting in line," said Taniguchi, who speaks English as a second language and is about to finish her studies and return to her job in a flower shop in Tokyo's Imperial Hotel.
She was referring to the opportunity to purchase a limited-edition "Waikiki 2004" Twilly scarf commemorating the boutique's opening for the "bargain price of $110."
She was expecting a few friends to join her in line.
Although there were no crowds outside, the atmosphere inside was palpable as the staff and executives from New York and Paris rushed around unpacking boxes, polishing fixtures and rearranging inventory for the long-awaited opening.
And while the architecture, lighting and fixtures were all of note, perhaps the most exciting news at Hermès for fall 2004 is the introduction of the first collection designed by renowned Paris couturier Jean Paul Gaultier.
When the Hermès-Gaultier alliance was announced to the fashion world, eyebrows shot up. A strange match, some insiders clucked: the eccentric, larger-than-life designer, known for his exhibitionist clothes, and the 160-year-old luxury goods firm known for its understated elegance?
However, it makes perfect sense to Hermès CEO Robert Chavez, visiting from New York for the store's opening, who said: "Both Hermès and Gaultier are committed to quality, great style and a beautiful product. Both are independent thinkers with individual style, so it's a marriage made in heaven."
"He used so many of the materials and icons of the house with a wonderful interpretation, and our clients are responding accordingly," Chavez said.
Indeed, the first thing Gaultier did after joining Hermès was to lock himself away in the archives and study the aesthetic history of the firm.
The collection is one of classics with a touch of caprice. A wool kilt is embellished with leather straps and a Kelly closure (adapted from the Kelly bag, made famous when Grace Kelly used it to hide her pregnancy during a photo shoot).
Flowing opposite the mainstream taste for low-rise pants, Gaultier offers at-the-waist pants and high-waisted skirts with hand-sewn top stitching. An innovative cashmere shawl has one arm sewn like a sleeve so that when a woman throws it over her shoulder, it won't fall off.
In a nod to Hermès' origins as a saddle maker, Gaultier's theme at New York's Fashion Week last week was cavalry chic. Inspired by fantasies of Louis XIV and Madonna on horseback, his collection included an alligator riding jacket and jodhpurs worn by recently unretired supermodel Linda Evangelista.
Although Gaultier is only designing women's ready-to-wear, Chavez said he is inspiring designers throughout the firm to look at things in a new way.
Two products that are not likely to change: the Kelly bag and the Birkin bag. The ultimate Hermès icons, these bags have waiting lists so long that the firm closed the lists three years ago and asked women to wait just to be put on the waiting list.
The Birkin bag's popularity skyrocketed after an episode of "Sex and the City" when Samantha (played by actress Kim Cattrall) was so desperate to get hold of a red Birkin bag that she pretended she was buying it for Lucy Liu to jettison her name to the top of the waiting list. When Liu found out, she grabbed the bag and ran.
Although many products pay for such exposure, Hermès was surprised when the bag was written into the script.
"The phones rang off the hook all across the country," Chavez said. And upped the waiting list a few years as well.
Carrie, the character played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore Hermès scarves on her head, at her wrist and waist, and tied to her handbags; this also caused a stir in the stores.
In regard to interior design, Chavez said that although the store has a long tradition and history, they always try to instill elements of modernity.
Architect Rena Dumas, of Paris, designed the Waikiki boutique which, at 4,300 square feet, is twice the size of the former location. She wanted it, above all, to be full of light. She knocked out windows upstairs to get more natural light and used a variety of indirect lighting fixtures.
The wood is a warm cherry, the stone is pale and the walls a soft chino. The visual merchandising communicates the corporate philosophy, said Chavez, "That each product deserves its moment, and that the quality and craftsmanship of each item should be showcased."
In spite of the warmth of the interior, Hawai'i residents may still feel that Hermès is just for visitors.
Not true, said Chavez. "Our staff is here to melt down all those icy walls. They are warm and welcoming; and we want you to feel at home, even if you are just coming in to ask a question."
|Aug 12, 2006, 12:45pm||#28|
Hermès Shapes Its Future
Wall Street Journal
March 6, 2005
Family-Run for Generations,
French Luxury-Goods Maker
Reaches Outside for Change By ALESSANDRA GALLONI
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
March 4, 2005; Page B1
PARIS -- A steady succession of family managers has run Herm ès International SA, the French luxury brand famous for its silk ties, H-logo belts and Kelly bags, since 1837. But who will steer the House of Herm ès through the next century?
Succession is a key question looming over the company behind one of the world's most exclusive and successful labels. The fifth generation member of the founding family now running Herm ès, Jean-Louis Dumas, has served as chairman since 1978, when he took over from his father, Robert Dumas. He has listed 25% of Herm ès's shares on the Paris stock market, guided the brand's international expansion and hired flamboyant French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who plans to present his coming fall/winter collection here tomorrow.
But Mr. Dumas, 67, has recently cut back his workload, and while several family members are employed at the fashion house, insiders say there is no obvious single heir. So Patrick Thomas, an outside manager who last year became co-chief executive is now helping to map out the company's future.
The changing of the guard is a topic Herm ès has been loath to discuss, but in an interview above the company's palatial Paris boutique, Mr. Thomas said several of the company's top in-house executives, including non-family members, are being groomed to share the job.
Chairman Jean-Louis Dumas and daughter Sandrine
"This is a family company with a long-term vision, and whoever succeeds Mr. Dumas will have the same vision, but there will be several men and women," said the 57-year-old Mr. Thomas. He added that he plans to step down when Mr. Dumas does. "When the time comes -- and it won't be for two or three years -- we will have a team in place," he said. "There will be no revolution." Herm ès declined to make Mr. Dumas available for an interview.
Succession is a burning issue for much of the European luxury-goods world, which has thrived as a family-run industry for much of the past century. Pressures to grow by tapping outside investors, and the aging of founding-family members, have prompted many to shed their ancestral roots. Some families, such as Rome's Fendi sisters, have sold out to big conglomerates like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA. Although it is still a relatively young company, succession has already taken place at Versace, with Allegra Versace Beck last year taking possession of her late uncle Gianni Versace's 50% stake in the fashion house. Among those still grappling with the succession question is 70-year-old Italian designer Giorgio Armani, who hasn't primed an heir for his eponymous fashion house and has several times held inconclusive talks with potential buyers.
At Herm ès, passing the baton is a particularly delicate issue because the company, which is still 75%-owned by descendents of the Herm ès family and its various branches, has pursued a business model that bucks many of the sweeping changes in fashion trends, and in the luxury-goods business, over the past two decades.
A spring 2005 dress from Jean-Paul Gaultier for Hermes
While conglomerates such as LVMH, PPR SA's Gucci Group and Prada snapped up struggling fashion houses, Herm ès has grown mainly by extending its own brand -- at times into unusual product categories such as baby clothes and beach linens, in addition to more traditional watches and perfumes. Acquisitions have served to enhance Herm ès's core products. For example, Herm ès bought crystal maker Cristallerie de Saint Louis solely to produce goods for the Herm ès label's home collection.
The company also has tried to make its products available to a broader range of consumers by adding more lower-priced canvas-and-leather handbags. These bags now account for about 50% of Herm ès's handbag sales. "Everything is done to support our key business -- the name Herm ès -- and under this name, we can...nourish our internal growth," Mr. Thomas said.
Unlike many rivals, Herm ès sells different mixes of merchandise in stores around the world, avoids splashy advertising, never puts its merchandise on sale and tiptoes slowly into new markets. Its prices are also markedly higher than its competitors': The popular leather Kelly and Birkin bags, named after actresses Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin, cost between €3,500 ($4,585) and €17,800 -- for the crocodile-leather Birkin model. There's often a yearlong waitlist.
The strategy has allowed Herm ès's sales to grow between 8% and 10% per year in recent years, making the company a €1.3 billion business in revenue last year. Full-year profit figures aren't due to be released until the end of the month.
Hermes Birkin bag
Over the past two decades, Herm ès's traditional way of business has been spearheaded -- virtually single-handedly -- by Mr. Dumas, a descendant of Herm ès founder Thierry Herm ès. Mr. Dumas has served not only as top executive but also as Herm ès's overall creative mastermind since 1978. "Throughout its history, there has always been a charismatic family member to pursue Herm ès's tradition of quality and creativity," said Pamela Golbin, a curator at Musée de la Mode et du Textile, a fashion museum in Paris. "Mr. Dumas has embodied that person in the family."
Today, there are about 10 family members at Herm ès, such as Mr. Dumas's son Pierre-Alexis, who is a creative director, and nephew Guillaume de Seynes, who coordinates product categories and serves on the company's executive committee. But, with none considered to have both the managerial and creative skills to alone succeed Mr. Dumas, the company has over the years searched for external managers.
It hasn't always worked: Fabrice Boe-Dreyfus, a former L'Oréal executive tipped as Mr. Dumas's successor, lasted only a year before he left following disagreements with Mr. Dumas over company strategy, according to people close to both men.
Mr. Thomas worked for Herm ès in the 1990s but left for stints at cosmetics firm Lancaster Group and whiskey maker William Grant & Sons Ltd. before returning to the company in 2003. As co-CEO, he takes care of Hermes' day-to-day operations.
He is seen as a transitional figure before a new team takes over. The next generation could include current managers and executive-committee members Christian Blanckaert, the head of international business, and Mireille Maury, the finance director. Mr. Thomas said it's likely that the new team will include a family member.
Though Herm ès resists being called "fashionable," an adjective that runs counter to its goal of purveying an image of timeless luxury, the company 18 months ago hired Mr. Gaultier, an enfant terrible of French fashion, to design its ready-to-wear collection. His famous strokes include attiring Madonna in her legendary cone-shaped bra, and putting on an exhibit in Paris of dresses made out of French bread.
It's still too early to say whether the new ready-to-wear products are a success, in part because delivery of Mr. Gaultier's first collection was held up in the third quarter of last year due to manufacturing problems. "Mr. Gaultier has a very different style than Hermes's traditional look and the question is whether it will be accepted," said Dana Telsey, an analyst at Bear Stearns in New York.
Mr. Thomas said the company, over the next three to five years, plans to make fashion and accessories, such as gloves, account for one-third of its business, up from the current one-fifth. Some analysts wonder whether such fast growth in fashion will hurt Herm ès's margins, which are traditionally higher in products such as handbags. Mr. Thomas dismisses that concern, saying the clothes will be sold in Herm ès's existing stores, entailing little extra fixed costs.
This year, Herm ès plans to open five new stores, renovate 10 boutiques and boost production of its hand-stitched handbags by 10%. It's part of a goal to keep annual sales steady at 8% to 10%. "We are not after too fast a growth. We want to continue what has been achieved so far," Mr. Thomas said.
From Wall Street
|Aug 12, 2006, 12:48pm||#30|
Martha's Moneyed Bag Carries Too Much Baggage
By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2004; Page C01
Martha Stewart arrived in federal court on Tuesday to begin her trial on charges that include conspiracy, obstruction of justice and securities fraud. She was carrying two handbags.
One appeared to be the typical working woman's carryall. It was made of dark, sturdy leather and was roomy enough to hold a significant amount of paperwork and the various electronic organizers that are part of a professional woman's arsenal. The bag, with its double handle and curved lines, was the sort of accessory a woman might carry if she wanted a tote that was softer and more versatile than a basic briefcase. If there was any subliminal message in her bag, it was that Stewart is a working woman, just like so many others.
The second bag was a warm shade of brown with a rounded double handle, tiny metal feet, a fold-over top and a beltlike closure that wrapped around its body. It was an Hermes Birkin handbag. And for a certain breed of woman, it is the handbag equivalent of a Rolls-Royce or a dozen illicit Cuban cigars. It is a bag that announces that one has achieved a breathtaking level of success. It can declare its owner's wealth and status from a distance of 50 paces.
The opening price for a Birkin is $6,000, according to a spokeswoman for the company. The most expensive version is $85,000. It is made of crocodile and has solid gold closures that are adorned with diamonds.
Perusing eBay in search of Birkin bags, one can find a version in matte brown crocodile priced at $22,999. The bag does not come with a matching car.
Stewart's handbag is more modest than that. It is at least 11 years old and is a favorite handbag because it is so roomy -- perfect for files, said one of the people in her camp. It closely resembles a camel-color leather version that's offered on eBay for $10,999. For such a significant outlay of dollars, one receives a bag that is handmade by artisans. Its hardware is gold-plated. It comes with a small padlock and keys. It was introduced in 1984 and named after the British film actress Jane Birkin, for whom it was designed. And it is imbued with all of the status and mythology that Hermes can muster.
Women who are interested in purchasing a Birkin would do well to go to the Internet auction site to do their shopping. It is virtually impossible for the typical shopper -- even one brandishing a platinum American Express card or a large wad of cash -- to walk into an Hermes boutique and purchase a Birkin. The bag has a waiting list that has grown to the absurd length of 2 1/2 years and so the French company has closed it. Now there is a wait to get on the waiting list. Unless, of course, one is a celebrity with all of the privileges that affords.
The television show "Sex and the City" helped to thrust the Birkin and its lore into the consciousness of those outside its demographic. In one episode, the character of Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, so desperately and impatiently yearns for a Birkin that she tells the Hermes publicity director -- in a foulmouthed tirade -- that she needs the bag for her client, the actress Lucy Liu, who plays herself. The waiting list is quickly dispensed with and a Birkin arrives in its full orange-boxed, cosseted glory.
For Stewart, carrying a bag that is surrounded by such a thick cloud of wealth and privilege was ill-advised. Appearances play too important a role in a jury trial. In Stewart's case, polls have shown that while some observers see a successful businesswoman who is unfairly under assault, others see an arrogant woman who believed that in her rise to the top she also rose above the law. Stewart's decision to accessorize her businesslike ensemble with a Birkin was the equivalent of a male mogul arriving at the courthouse with an expensive stogie clenched between his teeth. Stewart's Birkin was a hand-stitched symbol of the underlying issues -- the privileges of success -- that have so agitated her detractors. Her advisers have weighed in on a host of issues related to her image, but her choice of handbag was not among them.
Yesterday, her second day in court, the Birkin was not on display in front of the cameras. But Stewart had the bag with her and reportedly said that she plans to use it frequently throughout the trial. Eleven years ago, the Birkin was just an expensive, classic bag. For Stewart, it may have been a talisman of her hard work, dedication and perseverance. Now, she may see the bag simply as practical. But over time, the Birkin has become a cultural emblem of elitism, privilege and celebrity. It is the bag that money alone cannot buy. And it is a reminder to everyone else that those who are famous always seem to have the advantage.