Hands lie at the heart of the Hermes story. It is hands that painstakingly transform luxurious leathers into priceless handbags, or precious silks into coveted scarves. It is hands that assemble the saddles upon which Hermes built its name, or perform the intricate enamel work that adorns the maison’s cuff-like bracelets.
And for a house that started out in 1837 crafting harnesses for horses, and has paid tribute to its relationship with these majestic creatures ever since, the hands take on even greater symbolic value. For it is hands that guide the horse and act as a connecting point between animal and rider.
So it is only fitting that the latest launch from Hermes Beauty focuses on the hands. Le Mains Hermes is a holistic hand care range that includes a hand cream, a nourishing oil for the nails and cuticles, a protective base coat, a collection of 24 nail enamels, a top coat and a set of nail files.
“It was very obvious to us that the hands are an integral part of what we do, because hands are about craftsmanship, and objects are handmade at Hermes,” says Agnes de Villers, chief executive of Hermes Perfume & Beauty.
To create this latest offering, the team drew on the age-old expertise of several Hermes metiers – from silk and leather to enamel and ready-to-wear.
“Usually at Hermes, we say the answer is in the room, because we have a huge amount of things that we can draw on. For instance, we’ve got the whole colour palette from silk, with 75,000 colours to choose from, and we’ve got the colour palette from leather, which is 900 colours. And likewise for enamel, there are about 180 colours. So we decided to work on a kind of edit.”
The end result is 24 nail enamels that range in colour from Imperial yellow, a dominant feature of the brand’s clothing collections, to Violet Byzantin, which takes it cues from the leather metier, and Rouge H, a bold red that works as well on leather as it does for lipsticks, enamel and now nails.
For the nail care products, the team developed its own formulas in house, working with natural ingredients and securing Cosmos Natural certification from Ecocert.
For the cream, which carries a specially formulated scent of patchouli, sandalwood, arnica and rose water, the aim was to create something that was, above all else, efficient.
“This is why we chose a lot of powerful active ingredients,” explains Laurence Robbe Tomine, director of research and development at Hermes Perfume & Beauty.
“We’ve used white mulberry extract, which is drawn from roots that we grow with aeroponics, which allows us to have a renewable extract. What we didn’t want to do is pull the plant out of the ground and destroy it.
“It’s an active ingredient that smoothes out the skin. Hands are extremely exposed, especially in recent times, with all the sanitisers we are using. We used hyaluronic acid and its derivatives to improve moisturising and protection, and then Passiflora oil to repair the skin. We also have natural moss extract that is very good at protecting the skin from the environment, and to complete the formula we used an extract of precious mastic resin tears, which have a nourishing and hydrating effect on the nails.”
The quality of the hand cream hints at a move into skincare, although de Villers is careful to neither confirm nor deny that this is on the cards.
“It’s true that this hand care product has been developed to the same standard as if it were for the face,” she acknowledges. But it also builds on an ethos that has been integral since Hermes Beauty was launched last year with a line of lipsticks and, just as importantly, a lip balm, which has since proven to be a bestseller.
Beauty is more than skin deep at Hermes, a company that has long prided itself on imbuing aesthetics with substance.
“At Hermes, there is always a lot of depth to what we do, because we work with natural, raw materials and we glorify them, we transform them, and we have a lot of respects for materials. Whether it is leather or people’s skin, we know that colour always looks more beautiful when you put it on a material that has been properly cared for. For us, it was obvious that we couldn’t enter the world of beauty just with colour.”
Having only launched its beauty division in 2020, Hermes is, as de Villers acknowledges, pretty late to the game, especially when you consider that the maison has been around for nearly two centuries. But as with all other aspects of the business, it was happy to take its time getting it right, developing in-house expertise and a proposition that would set it apart.
“It is true that because we arrived very late to the beauty segment, we are pretty much the last of the luxury houses to have beauty ranges. For me, it’s a completely different journey because at Hermes we want to develop the metier inside the house and have our own specific know-how. So the challenge was to start from this blank page of paper and to realise that we have been around for some 200 years, but we needed to come up with a proposal for the beauty segment for the future.
“And that’s where the whole ethical, responsible side of things became a top priority. Because for us it is not conceivable to do what has always been done, we have to bring something new. Hence why, for the care products, we have also worked alongside experts to create the right natural formulas. This was extremely demanding and is brand new for the industry. Everybody is talking about it, of course, but it’s quite difficult to achieve.”
Beyond colour and care, there is the idea of gesture, and of objects that are beautiful in and of themselves.
“Everybody has their own little rituals and their own gestures that we make every single day, which we often inherit from previous generations. If these rituals can be performed with beautiful objects, they become like companions, and they speak to an art of living beauty. And these gestures that are essentially very simple become extraordinary, because of these precious objects.”
Like the brand’s lipstick cases and blush compartments before them, the nail products come in beautiful sculptural containers designed by Pierre Hardy, creative director of Hermes shoes and jewellery.
“What we’ve brought to the tables is these objects that you can just look at and enjoy, before you even start using them,” says de Villers.
“Pierre Hardy has this desire to work on sustainable objects – objects that will have a long-lasting life or have many different lives. That was important for us from the very beginning with the lipstick, to have an object that you could refill. Likewise, the case for the Rose Hermes blusher can be refilled. For the nail enamel, we have tried to use as little plastic as possible – we’ve used glass and metal, which can be recycled indefinitely.”
“At Hermes we believe we are both artists and craftspeople – two concepts that tie in with one another. Here, everyone is the craftsman of their own beauty.”