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Robert Chavez, Hermès of Paris US CEO: Searching For The Perfect Skin at The American Express Publishing Luxury Summit

Mr. Chavez is the U.S. President and CEO of Hermès, Paris, where has held this position since 2000. Under his direction, Hermès became the premier luxury brand house to lead the revitalization of lower Manhattan, with the opening of a new store on Wall Street in 2007. In February 2010, Robert opened the first ever Hermès Boutique For Men, in New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University and resides in New York.

At The American Express Publish Luxury Summit, Mr. Chavez spoke about what can be learned from the Hermès brand, and what makes Hermès a true Hermès?

The more obvious answers dealt with keeping the company small, having a small supply of products, which helps, but occasionally hinders. He said it can often take eight years to acquire a Birkin or a Kelly bag, mainly because it takes one or two years or more to find the perfect (alligator or some type of leather) skin.

Recently, the less than perfect skins and other materials have been repurposed into products for an ancillary company called Petit h, a capsule collection, that salvages defective merchandise and cutting-floor waste into high-end jewelry and decorative accessories. “These are still one-of-a-kind objects.” Mr. Chavez remarked.

This year alone, sales volume was up 25% from last year at this time. And what does the luxury buyer want? Authenticity, Mr. Chavez said, in large and small details the buyer is looking at what the brand represents and the luxury client can’t be fooled.

One of the most important, if not THE most important aspect of the business is that Hermès is family-owned, and has been for seven generations. In hiring people to work at the sales and at the corporate levels at Hermès, they must become part of the family, share the values and be willing to work in the front and the back offices. Mr. Chavez said that often, if he has time, he likes to be part of the sales staff at Hermès, as he likes to see what customers are buying.

Mr. Chavez founded the first Hermès Men’s Boutique in New York, he saw that in China, the men’s luxury goods dimension of fashion was very lucrative and 45% of Hermès’s business comes from men’s product sales – shoes, belts, ties. And the Asian population has had much to do with this.
So, Hermes began to do iconic pieces – using Hermès well-known symbols: – a Kelly lock, an anchor, equestrian designs — and the customers have responded positively.

Finally, he said, it is good to know that the Aspirational – the first time buyer — has returned – usually buying a scarf, a tie.

“I have seen this before,” he concluded, “and now most especially, the quality and touch of a Hermès product makes their world slow down – this is what a great brand does. It is an authentic, priceless experience.”

Robert Chavez Amex

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About Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, editorial, and PR/Media Relations. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, and ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Connoisseur, a high end magazine with a focus on the evolution of the private residence and destination club industries, until its closure in November 2008. In 2009, Susan served as the Content Editor for, writing travel club guides, and all forms of Destination Club, Private Residence Club and high end fractional news. Susan has done PR and content marketing consultation for Luxury Real, the Weybridge Collection, Solstice, Charaf & Co., and Spring Creek Partners. She was chosen as one of the five best Luxury journalists of 2011 by the website Luxury Susan is regularily featured as a speaker at The Ragatz Luxury Fractional Interest Conference, and has covered, for many years, the American Express Luxury Summit. Susan lives in beautiful Logan, Utah with her husband and Beagle. Online at Google + and Twitter.

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