Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hermès Breaks With Tradition and Launches a Modern Line of Nautilus Pens

Hermès is in the business of creating icons. The Birkin bag, the double-banded Cape Cod watch, even those whimsical patterned ties: each is an inescapable totem of the 177-year-old fashion house's rock-solid brand.
Yet looking at their new line of pens, it would appear that after two centuries of brand cohesion, someone at the company was itching to try something new. 
That someone, it turns out, is Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès' artistic director and great-great-great grandson of the company's founder. "I wanted to do an object that's unlike anything you've seen before," said Dumas during last night's launch event at their New York flagship on Madison Avenue. "This is the way we should design at Hermès. We should not be superfluous. We should be essential."
And so we have the Nautilus line of cap-less, retractable pens, designed by the Australian industrial designer Marc Newson. There's no enamel, no precious metals, nothing that would imply glittering luxury. Instead, the brushed aluminum and stainless steel pens are matte, solid, and uncharacteristically understated, priced at $1,350 (for the ballpoint) and $1,650 (for the fountain). They come in dark blue, burgundy, and black -- with nary a spot of that signature Hermès orange to be found.
"I've been heading the collections for about 10 years," said Dumas. "The exercise, every season, is to give a contemporary expression to an age-old company. It's a paradox, but it leaves space for creativity."
Of course, at a time when most people use smartphones for correspondence and pens to sign receipts and not much else, there's a certain irony to creating a ‘modern,' pen, but Dumas explained that's missing the point. "Using a pen is an interesting act of resistance," he said. "I don't write the same way with a computer -- I'm more inspired when I'm writing with a pen. It's a different, more personal thought process."
In conjunction with the pens, Hermès has launched an entire ecosystem of distinctly traditional leather accessories. (No one said anything about them abandoning their billion-dollar business model entirely.) There's a leather ink-cartridge holder ($500), leather pen cases ($360), a stationary set, with notepads and notebooks ranging from $35 to $65, a leather writing set (medium size: $2,000), and notebooks ($115) bound in Hermès' signature colorful silk patterns.
At the launch event, guests were invited to try out the pens at different tables. At one, a graphologist analyzed visitors' handwriting. ("Bold leader" here, in case you're wondering.) People could also write letters on Hermès stationary, which the company then mailed, or listen to leather-covered headphones and practice "automatic writing," letting their hands move to the beat of the music.
The stationary, which is made in France, is thick, lustrous, and tactile -- you don't write on the notepad paper as much as carve into it. The pens feel balanced and almost uncannily solid when held.
"We spent a long time trying to get the right shape, so that it fits well in your hand," said Dumas. "I find the object very sensual."
The glossy blue leather writing set is the least practical piece in the product launch. It's lovely to be sure, but fairly bulky -- even if you've got a capacious briefcase or purse, only the most dedicated traveling scribes will want to lug it around.
Still, this is Hermès; items will move. As Dumas stood in the thick of it all, smiling and greeting visitors, Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, rushed up to him brandishing a giant shopping bag. "I bought a brown and a navy," she exclaimed about her new pens. "I just love them, they're fantastic."
Dumas beamed. "Good!" he said. "You're not leaving empty handed." 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Birkin: the smell of luxury?

By Jill Radsken

Boston Globe Correspondent   

The news of a bad batch of Birkin bags has created a minor le stink for the French fashion house Hermes.
A small number of the leather handbags sold within the last year have revealed a not so odor-able problem: a pungent stench similar to skunk or marijuana. The opulent bags sell for $20,000 or more.
“In the back of a car, or in the sun, or in a closed Hermes box, the smell becomes more concentrated,” said writer and Birkin expert Michael Tonello.
The Massachusetts native who authored “Bringing Home the Birkin” in 2008 about his years reselling the sought-after luxury bags, has heard from three Hermes devotees who have experienced the problem, which was reported earlier last week in the New York Post’s Page Six column.
“It’s either the togo leather, which is grainy, very pebbly looking, or the other leather is taurillon clemence. It’s also grainy with a pebbly finish, but a larger grain,” said Tonello, in a telephone interview from St. Helena Island in South Carolina, where he is writing the screenplay of his book. “Both are soft. They’re classic Birkins.”
Hermes has yet to comment on the scent-sational situation, which, Tonello said, is the way the Paris-based company likes to do business.
“I guess it’s part of their allure. They like to keep these stories, myths, urban legends perpetuated,” he said.
Tonello estimates that only a tiny fraction of Birkins — fewer than 100 — have odor issues. And while the problem may seem “a little silly,” he noted that a Birkin isn’t easy to replace.
“Some people save up for a long time and it’s a big purchase,” he said. “These bags are done as part of a season or collection. When those bags all ship out, they’re gone.”


Monday, October 20, 2014

LVMH Explains How It Will Distribute $7.4 Billion Hermes Stake

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC) laid out how it will distribute its 23 percent stake in Hermes International SCA to shareholders after agreeing last month to relinquish its stake in the Birkin bag maker.
LVMH shareholders will get two Hermes shares for every 41 LVMH shares they own, according to a regulatory filing today.
LVMH will communicate the distribution at least four business days before it takes place, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker said. The Hermes shares will be valued at the opening trading price on the day of the payment, not exceeding 235.2 euros a share, valuing the stake at as much as 5.8 billion euros ($7.4 billion), LVMH said.
LVMH, based in Paris, is distributing its Hermes stake to shareholders almost four years after it started building the holding without Hermes’s knowledge. The payment, due to be completed by Dec. 20, will leave Groupe Arnault, the family holding company of LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, with an 8.5 percent interest in Hermes, LVMH has said.

Monday, October 13, 2014

$20k Hermès Birkin bags ‘smell like marijuana’

Hermès’ iconic bag, the Birkin, has a pungent problem — customers are returning some recent orders of the wildly expensive bags to the boutiques, complaining they smell of marijuana.
Customers — some of whom have paid about $20,000 or more for the exclusive bags — have been told by staff at the luxury goods store that there was a problem with a “badly tanned” batch of leather from a supplier to Hermès.
They claim the tanning process somehow makes the leather smell like marijuana whenever it heats up in warm temperatures, such as in direct sunlight or in a hot car.
A source tells us:
“Owners are returning the Hermès bags back to boutiques across the US, including the Madison Avenue store, saying they smell of skunk. The bags are being sent back to Paris as nobody knows quite how to deal with this embarrassing situation.”
Apparently, this is a worldwide problem as Hermès bags are distributed to boutiques in limited quantities and are often on back or special order.
While the problem does not affect all Hermès leather products, we are told this does affect multiple bags in varying colors, ranging in designs such as the Birkin, the Kelly and the Elan clutch, which retail from $5,000 to more than $20,000, all of which had been purchased in 2013 and 2014. It is not believed the problem affects the Hermès crocodile skin bags, which can sell for more than $60,000. Customers are reporting that Hermès staff are saying the bags have to go back to Paris, have the bad-smelling leather panels removed and the entire bag rebuilt.
While a New York-based Hermès rep didn’t respond to requests for comment, the so-called “skunk stinky syndrome” has become a subject of discussion on Web forums devoted to luxury goods.
One Kelly bag owner posted on PurseBlog:
“After riding in the car with her for about 30 minutes, I smelled what I thought was a dead skunk. Another 30 minutes later I could still smell the dead skunk, and I thought it was odd, but never imagined it could be my bag. I keep (it) in an armoire . . . When I opened the cabinet door this morning, the smell hit me, and I immediately knew it was the bag.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

All I want for Christmas is a Hermes Handbag: Wealth Building in Luxury Assets

I have an actuary acquaintance who paid a small fortune for a Louis Vuitton handbag, much to the irritation of her actuary husband. She argues that she derives much pleasure out of using her designer bag daily, while her husband only gets to use his equally expensive set of golf clubs occasionally. She has more reason to brag than ever about her decadent purchase, as luxury handbags are increasingly becoming considered assets in the true sense of the word. Big money has been changing hands between collectors of vintage designer brands, and some lenders happily accept luxury bags as security against loans. A personal asset lender says it has handed out the equivalent of about R4m to cash-strapped handbag owners who need money for private school fees or to fund a business venture. It could be easier for you to borrow against a luxury handbag than against a portfolio of investments like shares. Make sure you ask for a Hermes or vintage Chanel for Christmas, as some brands are more valuable than others. And, beware: there are lots of very good-looking fakes out there. – JC

On the day of the Hermes fashion show at Paris Fashion Week, Borro, the UK personal asset lender, reveals a number of their clients are using luxury bags from the designer as collateral for loans. In response to popular demand, we launched a service offering loans against handbags from the classic French fashion house Hermes in December 2013 and since then, business has blossomed.
Just last week, a client in London brought in a Hermes blue crocodile skin Birkin bag, with a value of £40,000 new (more than R700 000), and secured a £16,500 loan (R300 000).
In the US, Borro worked with one client to lend $30,000 (R35 000) against another Hermes crocodile Birkin bag. These types of loans are not unusual. We have seen other clients borrow £12,500 for school fees against a burgundy crocodile Hermes Birkin bag, and another who borrowed £10,500 against a slate grey crocodile Birkin.
Since launching this proposition in December last year, the lender has issued £210,000 against designer bags, with an average loan value of £9,000 (about R160 000).  Using both its in-house valuation experts, as well as external third party valuers, we authenticate and value the handbags, and offer clients up to 60 per cent of the market value of the bag based on its condition and age, as well as market desirability.
The classic designer bag is very collectable, especially to the fashionista. The Hermes Birkin bag in particular is exceptionally sought after, but buyer beware – there are myriad fakes and replicas flooding the market, from the primitive to the exquisite.Provenance is imperative when purchasing so always buy from authentic dealers and respected auction houses.
The luxury handbag market is not only high growth, but a global market that is synonymous with our wealthy clientele. We decided to add high end handbags to our asset classes to match demand for loans against these assets, and have seen clients capitalise on the service ever since.
One came to us with a vintage Chanel 2.55 handbag which she used to secure funds for launching her own online business. All the handbags we lend against are checked and authenticated by an internal and external authority to make sure they are the genuine article, and if possible we ask for proof of purchase too.”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Christophe Lemaire’s Final Hermès Collection Doesn’t Disappoint

The designer’s last take was a beautiful representation of his four years designing womenswear for the house.

A look from Hermès's spring 2015 collection. Photo: ImaxtreeDesigner Christophe Lemaire is leaving Hermès to focus on his own label, which means that his spring 2015 collection for the house was his last. (It also happened to be the final show of Paris Fashion Week.) Sand covered the runway, but there was no hokey safari theme here. Instead, Lemaire focussed on silhouette, draping suede dresses and wool blouses in the most elegant, nonchalant ways. A suede robe coat made an impression, as did a navy leather collared shirt. A neutral palette gave way to a few looks made out of Hermès scarf fabric, a nice homage to his former employers. Lemaire, both with Hermès and his own collection, is one of a consortium of designers truly capturing how we want to dress now: luxe utilitarianism, with few flourishes. Really, who doesn’t want a navy leather anorak in their closet? 

What a shame, some might say, given that his wares seem to embody the quiet elegance Hermès puts forward. But unlike some departures, there was little sadness today. After all, we’re not losing Lemaire. He’s simply moving on. And so has Hermès. Next season, new womenswear designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski will begin again. And we’ll be watching.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hermès Birkin Sold for $185,000!

Sold, for $185,000! 'Extraordinarily rare' diamond-encrusted Hermès Birkin bag made from albino crocodile skin sells at auction 

  • The Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin Bag is described as 'the rarest and most desirable handbag in the world' 
  • Its skin came from an exceptionally pale Hermès-bred crocodile, said to be 'almost an albino'
  • The winning bidder has chosen to remain anonymous
  • A rare Hermès tote sold at auction yesterday to an anonymous bidder for $185,000, the second-highest price ever paid for a Birkin bag.
    The Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin - encrusted with 245 diamonds, boasting 18-karat white gold hardware and crafted from extremely pale crocodile skin - sent bidders into a frenzy via phone, online and in person at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.
    Managing Director of the auction house, Kathleen Guzman told CBS MoneyWatch: 'Hermès raises crocodiles on its own farm, breeding them to have very light coloring. 'But then to search for a crocodile that has almost an albino skin is extraordinarily rare.'

    Eye-watering: This rare Hermès Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin (pictured) sold at auction yesterday to an anonymous bidder for $185,000, the second-highest price ever paid for a Birkin bag
    Eye-watering: This rare Hermès Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin (pictured) sold at auction yesterday to an anonymous bidder for $185,000, the second-highest price ever paid for a Birkin bag


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