What is it about this bag? The exquisite workmanship? Eighteen hours of master-crafting by a single artisan to produce one satin-soft piece. The iconic design? It first emerged around 1930 and its streamlined, art deco dimensions are practical for carrying and wearing (handbag, cross-body, shoulder bag?). The starry associations? It served as the ‘guardian’ of a pregnant Grace Kelly and Catherine Deneuve spent the wages from her first film on one. The ease of styling it? It confers instant gravitas on jeans just as it completes, perfectly, a sharply-cut dress. A ‘not-quite-pulled-together’ outfit, in the presence of an accompanying Kelly, will somehow make it over the line.
Perhaps it is the elusiveness. In Jo Ellison’s recent interview with Hermes’s CEO, Axel Dumas, for the Weekend FT (here) it was refreshing to learn that they considered but rejected the option of expanding production of their other iconic bag, the Birkin, because they feared compromising the workmanship. How many £9bn luxury consumer retailers would be confident enough to make that call? It’s a strategy that looks right judging from the comments posted on Business of Fashion’s recent article, ‘The Truth about Handbags’: quality trumps innovation, especially where it compromises standards, it seems.
A design classic, still produced with an uncompromising eye on quality.
There was also a really lovely article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph last week by Lisa Armstrong, based on her interview with Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski, the new womenswear designer at Hermes. Read it here.