PARIS — Don’t have an Hermès accessory named after you yet?
To be sure, it’s a rarified honor anointing the glamorous, including Grace Kelly, the late actress and princess, and Jane Birkin, the cult singer and actress.
But lesser-known souls have also been enshrined in some of the most coveted and expensive leather goods in the world: Constance, a squarish bag with an H buckle named after the Figaro Madame journalist who designed it, and the Lakis, a version of the Kelly named after the man — yes, a man — who placed a special order a few years back that called for handy external zippers and pockets.
Indeed, the history of Hermès accessories is one of teamwork, as scores of design talents from within and outside the company have contributed to its enduring success — and notorious waiting lists.
The latest to offer his imprint is couturier Jean Paul Gaultier. While officially in charge of women’s ready-to-wear, he couldn’t resist tinkering with the house’s star classics: shrinking the Kelly to a chic clutch and warping the Birkin into panoramic proportions — squatter, but longer, and toted by none other than supermodel Linda Evangelista on the catwalk.
Even the reclusive, mysterious Martin Margiela, whom Gaultier succeeded, left a legacy of new Hermès classics, including the much-copied double-length watch strap, a twice-around-the-waist belt and a handbag dubbed the MM, still available for custom order.
Of course, members of the founding family have always acted as the ultimate tastemakers, unifying the look of a brand founded in 1837 as a harness maker. Chairman Jean-Louis Dumas does the honors now, unifying 14 categories of products spanning items from fragrance to tableware. Insiders say his door is always open to ideas.
“It’s more a community of creative people that can propose different things to Jean-Louis,” said Stephane Wargnier, Hermès’ corporate communications director. “The divisions are not so clear.”
An obsession with quality — it takes as long as 25 hours to make a Birkin, for example — and a reputation for simplicity also unites the company’s stable of products. “Functionality has always been important,” Wargnier said.
"You start one way as a baby, but why shouldn't you be able to choose your own path as opposed to culturally people telling you which way to go?" - Thom Browne at his men's spring 2018 show, where he celebrated gender fluidity. #pfw #wwdmens (📷: @delphineachard)
"I think that all anyone really wants in life is to have people understand us for who we actually are, despite everything," says Ruth Negga. The actress talks "Preachers" season 2 and more on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: Dan Doperalski)