What makes Hermès stand apart from other brands in the way that it's run?
One area of sophistication with Hermès is that we don't have a marketing department. We don't do commercial studies, we don't ask people what they want or look at what the other people do. You don't need to have marketing - you need to be true to your style. We are Hermès and we create desire for our clients.
How do you balance the consumer's need for convenience and speed with the brand's need to maintain its heritage and craftsmanship?
It is a paradox. Once, I was at the dinner table, and there was my uncle, who was the brand CEO at the time, together with my mother, managing director for production. They were discussing the fact that the demand for Birkin bags far surpassed the quantity the brand could produce. I pointed out that what was more important for us was the integrity of the product. We are not going to increase the production by changing the integrity of the product. Yes, people want convenience, but when they are buying a product prized for its craftsmanship and authenticity, those qualities are more important. In the long term, it's a positive thing for the company and the client, because both parties know that there has been no compromise.
What have you identified as the brand's key challenges? What solutions have you come up with?
There are four key challenges. The first is securing the strength and heritage of our craftsmanship as we grow bigger. The second is to maintain the balance of our different métiers. It's important that this balance is strong for the future. The third is to keep the balance of our retail distribution in different geographical regions. We are still investing in Europe; we are still investing in China. We need to have a strong balance of countries, which is always a strength. And the fourth is we need to look at the digital side in a different way. We need to make sure we stay true to our brand while making use of the convenience of the internet. Hermès is about telling a story, and the digital world is a great way to tell a story, to create dreams.
What is one particular work philosophy you always carry with you?
Our industry can often focus so much on people and their various opinions. We have to provide joy and pleasure to the clients. [That's] the most important for us, and to maintain authenticity. We are in a world where everything is overmarketed; everybody is trying to send a message. We are here to create a better product for our clients. It's ok to fail but not ok to provide an average experience.
Hermès has a lot of product divisions, ranging from saddles and other leather goods to perfume, jewellery and even stationery. How does the brand strike a balance between being a holistic brand while also staying true to its original DNA and identity?
You need two things. The first is you need to have something to say with the craftsmanship. We only choose products that we believe in, where we can add something and do something different. The second thing is style. That is something unique, and that's why we never did any licensing, which other brands would do for perfume and other accessories. We need to control the production and licensing, otherwise you lose the identity of the brand. We are craftsmen. We work on our craft and produce beautiful products and, thanks to that, our clients are going to live a quality life.
Lately, there has been a lot of sensitivity in China with the corruption crackdown. What does that mean for your expansion plans in the country?
The important thing to remember is a fight against corruption is not the same thing as a fight against luxury. We are continuing in China; we need the same thing that we needed a few years ago - to increase the quantity and size of our stores. This year will be an important year for us in the region, because we are opening our Maison Hermès in Shanghai, our fifth maison in the world. It's a beautiful historical building and will become a very strong investment of ours. We believe that Chinese customers are becoming increasingly knowledgable when it comes to craftsmanship, authenticity and are less concerned about flashy logos - that's why heritage brands are doing well.
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