The former head of the luxury brand Hermès
, Jean-Louis Dumas, died on May 1 at the age of 72
. Dumas ran Hermès from 1978 to 2006 and was responsible for transforming the brand from a small and well-respected maker of leather goods to an internationally known luxury brand. Dumas was the great-great grandson of Thierry Hermès, who founded the company in 1837. Dumas helped give the world the intensely craved Birkin bag and brought fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier to the brand. Known to be a charismatic man of great style, he also published a book of photographs. The family still owns over 70 percent of the Hermès group and Dumas' son Pierre-Alexis works as an artistic director for the company.
According to a story in the Telegraph
, the Birkin bag came about after Dumas and actress Jane Birkin sat next to each other on a flight from Paris to London. She told Dumas that she could never find a decent handbag and so he invited her to the Hermès workshop to help create one. The bag remains a status symbol known around the world and it can take years to get your own.