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Hermès Womens Wear Designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski

I recently attended a talk, with Hermès womens wear designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski as the guest speaker. It was interesting, I learned everything about Nadège's career in the fashion industry and the design process. However, we were about 10 minutes into the talk and three people directly sitting in front of me (I think they were PETA), stood up, went to the front of the room and started to shout profanity on how Hermès makes their bags, which shocked me. I never experienced something like it before, and to be honest I did not know how the bags were made, until I went home and started to research it. I am an animal lover, and I would never use animal skin on any of my products and I do not buy products made from animal skin, I knew that Hermès made their bags from animal skin, mostly crocodile, but I did not know the details around making one.



Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski is a French fashion designer and the creative director of Hermès International. She studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp and has worked at several prestigious fashion houses, including Céline, Maison Martin Margiela, and The Row, which is owned by the Olsen twins. She was appointed as the artistic director of Hermès' women's ready-to-wear in June 2014, and presented her first collection in March 2015, staying close to the brand's equestrian roots. Vanhee-Cybulski is known for her ability to merge modern ready-to-wear with Hermès' equestrian heritage.


She is the first woman to hold the position of creative director at Hermès in more than 20 years, succeeding notable designers such as Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier. Vanhee-Cybulski is described as having a commanding presence and is known for her elegant yet punk style. She was born and raised in Lille, France, and has a diverse cultural background, with her mother being Algerian Muslim and her father being French Christian. This collision of two worlds has given her a broader perspective and a unique approach to design.


In her role at Hermès, Vanhee-Cybulski has been instrumental in developing the brand's "quiet luxury" and timeless and witty designs. She has a strong focus on colour and form, and is dedicated to moving the brand forward with imagination and intelligence. Her approach to design reflects her understanding of Hermès' horsy history and its influence on fashion. Vanhee-Cybulski's work has been well-received, and she has been praised for her ability to maintain the brand's heritage while infusing it with a modern sensibility.


History of Hermès

Hermès International S.A. is a French luxury design house established in 1837. The brand has a rich history and tradition, being family-owned for six generations. Here is a brief timeline of the history of the iconic Hermès brand:

  • 1837: Thierry Hermès established Hermès as a harness workshop in Paris, serving European noblemen.

  • 1918: Hermès introduced the first leather golf jacket with a zipper, made for Edward, Prince of Wales, which became known as the "fermeture Hermès" in France.

  • 1922: The first leather handbags were introduced after Emile-Maurice’s wife complained of not being able to find one to her liking.

  • 1925: The brand's travel bags were introduced and became a global success.

  • 1935: The leather Sac à dépêches, later renamed as the "Kelly bag" after Grace Kelly, was introduced.

  • 1937: The famous Hermès carrés (scarves) were introduced.

  • 1979: A French advertising campaign featuring a young lady with a Hermès scarf sparked global interest in the company’s scarves.

  • 1981: The iconic Birkin bag was introduced, named after British actress Jane Birkin.

  • 2003: Following the retirement of Jean Louis Dumas, Patrick Thomas became the new head of Hermès.



Throughout its history, Hermès has expanded its product line to include leather goods, lifestyle accessories, home furnishings, men's and women's wear, perfume, watches, stationery, footwear, gloves, enamelware, decorative arts, tableware, and jewellery. The brand has maintained tight control over the design and manufacture of its products, contributing to its iconic status in the world of luxury.


Hermès has also been known for its visionary leadership, diversification, and global expansion, with a strong focus on exquisite craftsmanship, quality, and professionalism[5]. The brand's commitment to heritage and tradition, combined with its ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences, has contributed to its enduring success in the competitive luxury market.


The Hermès Birkin bag is a highly coveted luxury handbag known for its exceptional craftsmanship, timeless style, and exclusivity. It is made from rare heritage leather, such as entirely vegetable-tanned natural cowhide, which gives it a unique character and transparent finish that gains a beautiful patina over time. The bag's clean lines and natural shade emphasise its appeal to connoisseurs.


The high price of the Birkin bag is attributed to several factors. Firstly, Hermès strictly controls the number of Birkin bags produced, leading to a substantial demand that exceeds their availability. The brand's policy of releasing a limited number of bags at a time drives up the price and makes purchasing a Birkin directly from an Hermès boutique complex expensive. Additionally, the scarcity, timeless style, and durability of Hermès handbags contribute to their high resale value, which continues to increase over time.


The craftsmanship involved in producing a Birkin bag is also a significant factor in its cost. Each bag reportedly takes 18 to 20 hours to make and is completed by a single craftsperson, adding to its exclusivity and value. Despite the high retail prices, the bags reportedly cost the brand 15% to 20% of the retail prices to produce, based on Hermès' public financial reports.


The Birkin bag's reputation as an elusive luxury staple, its association with A-listers and celebrities, and its limited availability contribute to its high price tags, which can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The bag's desirability and iconic status have made it a symbol of luxury and exclusivity in the fashion world, further driving its high market value.


Birkin Bag


In summary, the Hermès Birkin bag's high price is a result of its exceptional craftsmanship, exclusivity, limited availability, and enduring appeal as a symbol of luxury and status in the fashion industry.


Hermès criticised for animal abuse for their bags

Hermès has faced criticism and scrutiny regarding the ethical treatment of animals, particularly crocodiles, in the production of their luxury goods, including Birkin bags. Reports from PETA and other sources have raised concerns about the conditions in which crocodiles are raised and killed for the production of Hermès bags, belts, and other accessories.


PETA

The investigations have documented the conditions in which crocodiles are raised and sometimes slaughtered for their skins, which are then used to make luxury items such as Birkin bags. The reports highlight the confinement of crocodiles in concrete pits, the deprivation of natural behaviours, and the slaughtering of the animals at a young age for their skins.


In response to these concerns, Jane Birkin, the namesake of the iconic Birkin bag, expressed her distress over the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their killing for the production of Hermès bags carrying her name. She requested Hermès to de-baptize the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place for the bag's fabrication.


Hermès has acknowledged the concerns raised and has stated that it respects and shares the emotions expressed by Jane Birkin. The company has also indicated that it was shocked by the images recently broadcast and has vowed to investigate the farms in question.


PETA

In conclusion, while Hermès has faced allegations and criticism regarding the treatment of crocodiles in the production of their luxury goods, the company has responded by expressing a commitment to investigating the reported practices and addressing the concerns raised by Jane Birkin and animal rights organisations.



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