W's latest issue, which hits newsstands today, profiles the storied French fashion house Hermès, which has endured an unusually dramatic year. Between fending off advances from LVMH and tapping former Lacoste designer Christophe Lemaire to replace Jean Paul Gaultier, the company has had far more shake-ups than what's usual for a six-generation family-owned business whose rooftop gardens are still tended by the family gardener.
Pierre-Alexis Dumas, a member of the Hermès family and the company's group artistic director, still believes resolutely that the family must protect the company from LVMH to preserve the quality of its goods (various family members have previously likened LVMH chief Bernard Arnault to a "mosquito" and a rapist). He tells W:
Hermès has grown out of a family culture with a set of values that we all believe in ... I am convinced that it would disappear if the family dimension was taken away or diluted. You know, there have been a lot of very good, small restaurants in Paris that have been bought by big chains over the years, usually in the name of better management. But somehow their clients have stopped going, because they have lost their souls.
And if we can't have our soulful restaurants and Birkin bags, then what is there to live for, really?
House Proud [W]