Hermès on Exclusivity: "Stay Authentic"

Few luxury brands are actually nailing exclusivity lately. Louis Vuitton is revamping following a period of over-exposure. Gucci is trying to do the same. Both experienced not so favorable sales growth until recently. But there is one brand that consistently gets it right … Paris-based design house, Hermès. Not too long ago, the Wall Street Journal sat down with Axel Dumas, the family-owned brand's newest CEO, who spoke to this exact point (as well as how he plans to deal with the house's least favorite stock-holder, LVMH). So, listen up, luxury brands (and emerging brands, as well), you could learn a thing or two …


WSJ: There is a paradox in luxury, of selling lots of goods that have an aura of exclusivity. How do you manage this paradox?

Mr. Dumas: When we have had discussions about changing the way we do things to produce more, we always say no, to stay authentic. My great-grandfather Emile Hermès was sent to the U.S. during the First World War to buy some leather for the French cavalry and to look at Fordism—assembly line production. He was very impressed. He came back to Hermès and wrote a memo: "Never for us."

WSJ: Every year you are able to make more bags because you increase your production facilities. Even at your high price point, are you not concerned about the ubiquity of your bags?

Mr. Dumas: I don't think the price point is the relevant measure of our exclusivity. I am a little bit always taken aback when I hear, "We want to be more exclusive so we're going to sell more expensive bags." I think that the volumes that we have are still quite insignificant compared with the rest of the market.