Hermes and Chrome Hearts: Unlikely Sisters in Luxury
When discussing the world of luxury brands, few names inspire the kind of reverence and admiration reserved for the likes of Hermès and Chrome Hearts. Both have been celebrated for their meticulous craftsmanship, the timeless nature of their designs, and their unwavering commitment to quality. Yet, to the untrained eye, these two brands might seem worlds apart: Hermès, with its French roots and association with an affluent, equestrian lifestyle, and Chrome Hearts, a brand steeped in the edgy and rebellious spirit of rock 'n' roll and Hip-Hop. However, delve a little deeper, and one can observe fascinating collectable and stylistic parallels between the two.
A Legacy of Craftsmanship
Founded in 1837, Hermès began as a harness workshop in Paris, serving Europe's noblemen. This equestrian origin emphasized craftsmanship from the very beginning. Over the years, as the brand expanded its product range, this dedication to craftsmanship remained unchanged. Whether it's their iconic Birkin bags, silk scarves, or equestrian gear, every piece is a testament to the brand's painstaking attention to detail, each item handcrafted in France. Almost exactly 150 years later, Chrome Hearts was established Los Angeles in 1988 by Richard Stark. Although much younger than Hermès, its legacy is also rooted in artisan craftsmanship. Known for their sterling silver jewelry, leather clothing, and eccentric furniture pieces and home items, every item is handcrafted in LA, ensuring a unique, personal touch. Stark’s origin story is similar to Hermes’ though instead of making equestrian gear for nobility, he was making guitar straps and leather jackets for rock 'n' roll royalty. Stark’s roots as a biker mean the practical necessities of riding a motorcycle (good thick leather, solid construction) are baked into the DNA of his brand, as the necessities of riding are horse are with Hermes.
Both brands have specific symbols that are instantly recognizable and have become synonymous with their names. Hermes’ horse and carriage logo is a nod to their equestrian beginnings. The brand's signature orange hue is another unmistakable symbol, making any Hermès box instantly recognizable. Other icons like the Clou de Selle, Chaine d’Ancre and Medor hardware designs are found throughout Hermes’ history and product lines. Distinctly, the Gothic aesthetic is prevalent in Chrome Hearts designs. The brand's signature cross motif, often incorporated into their jewelry and apparel, has become an emblem of their commitment to consistency and identity. Other repeated motifs include Celtic designs, Maltese crosses, the Rolling Stone’s lips, and more recently, collaborative artist Matty Boy’s eyes, lips, and SEX decals. On the surface these sets of symbols could not seem more disparate, but three elements link them between the two brands: Silver, Leather, and the hand of the craftsman.
Big in Japan
Considering Japan’s landmass, both Hermes and Chrome Hearts conduct disproportionately high amounts of businesses in this archipelago. There are roughly as many Hermes boutiques in Japan as there are in all of Europe, and as many Chrome Hearts boutiques as there are in the US. The secondary markets for these brands are also much more established and mature in Japan than anywhere else.
Limited Availability & Collectability
The Birkin and Kelly bags from Hermès are among the most coveted in the world. Part of their allure lies in their limited availability. Not only is there a game to play that can take years, but the brand also never overproduces, ensuring that each piece remains a collectible item. This scarcity fuels demand, ensuring that many of their items appreciate in value over time. Chrome Hearts, too, employs a strategy of limited production. Their stores, sparse and spread out, often carry exclusive items not found elsewhere. This approach not only cultivates an air of exclusivity but also drives up the collectability of their pieces. While Hermes sells a number of its products online, it notably does not sell any of its most sought after designs, like the Birkin or Kelly. Chrome Hearts also only sells a handful of items online, reserving the best of its products for dedicated in-store shoppers. At both companies, loyalty and a relationship with a sales associate is crucial for those looking to buy coveted pieces at retail.
Blend of Tradition and Modernity
While steeped in tradition, Hermès has never shied away from innovation. Their classic designs are often reimagined, collaborating with contemporary artists and designers. This seamless blending of old and new ensures that Hermès remains relevant without compromising its heritage. Similarly, Chrome Hearts, while rooted in its rocker aesthetic, often collaborates with modern brands and icons, from Off-White to Bella Hadid. These collaborations infuse the brand with fresh perspectives while remaining true to their core identity.
Quality Over Trends
In an age where fast fashion and fleeting trends dominate the market, both Hermès and Chrome Hearts have remained steadfast in their commitment to quality. Rather than bending to the whims of the ever-changing fashion industry, Hermès focuses on timeless designs. Their pieces are meant to be worn for a lifetime and often passed down through generations. Similarly, Chrome Hearts is not about chasing the latest fad. Their designs, while undeniably edgy, have a timeless quality about them. The brand's emphasis on durable materials, like sterling silver and high-quality leather, ensures longevity. The closest to a collaboration these two brands have yet come is Chrome Heart’s production of classic leather biker jackets lined with authentic vintage Hermes scarves. For a brand that values quality, what material could make for a better lining than the silk of an Hermes scarf? Chrome Hearts has also done one-off customizations of Hermes bags for their VIP clients, similar to how Hermes will customize cars for their best clients through their Horizons department. As Chrome Hearts also customizes items both luxurious and common, from Rolexes and Rolls Royces, to Converses and Timberlands, their customized crossovers tend to multiply the value of the item that has been updated. Though no Chrome Hearts Birkins or Kellys can be found on the secondary market, now or historically as they are treasured by their owners, we can only assume these unique bags could fetch record sums if ever resold.
While Hermès and Chrome Hearts may cater to different demographics and aesthetic sensibilities, they share core principles that have cemented their place in the pantheon of luxury brands. Their unwavering commitment to craftsmanship, emphasis on exclusivity, and ability to blend tradition with modernity make them highly collectible and perpetually in vogue. For collectors and fashion enthusiasts alike, both brands offer more than just products—they offer pieces of art, history, and a testament to the enduring nature of quality and style. In the nuanced world of luxury, Hermès and Chrome Hearts serve as sterling reminders that true luxury lies in the details, the history, and the commitment to excellence.
Originally published on BagWatch