MR Jean Louis Dumas Hermes is perhaps his own best advertisement. The dapper Frenchman, who runs the prestigious French fashion and accessories house of Hermes, concedes that he almost personifies what the label stands for: consistent style and elegance. As the fifth generation member of a company that goes back 155 years, Mr Dumas Hermes agreed that he had a legacy to maintain. But the harsh realities of doing business in modern times has hit home, and Mr Dumas Hermes said it was no longer realistic to market the label as one only suitable for the exclusive set. ''I am not in the luxury business. I am in the business of manufacturing quality,'' he said. Although the company established its name as a producer of saddles and other equestrian products, Mr Hermes said this now represented less than one per cent of Hermes' business: of the 2,400 people working for Hermes, only 12 are equipped to make the exquisite leather sandals. Mr Dumas Hermes looked back on 1988 and 1989 as the most ''fabulous'' years for the business, with the company registering a 40 per cent growth. ''This has since dropped to about eight per cent but it is still not too bad. We should be happy because there are other people that are losing much more,'' he said. The consumer fascination with brand names of the 1980s has all but dissipated. ''People are simply not wasting money anymore and they are no longer rich enough to be fooled around with. For them, buying a trademark is not enough anymore. Instead, people are looking at the policy of the product, to see what it symbolises. They are not buying Hermes because they think it is a status symbol.'' In recent years, Hermes has shed its image as a somewhat conservative and reserved fashion house, and has become especially known for its simplicity and classic lines. ''Still, we will never be a provocative label. Comfort, durability and elegance don't work with provocation, and that is not our style,'' he said.