Designers creating one-of-a-kind handmade products
A luxury brand is nothing without its artisans.
Inside a big tent in the middle of Union Square Park in San Francisco, in celebration of its 175th anniversary, the house of Hermès hosted a free event for everyone interested in craft, fashion, style, and heritage to have a hands on experience. For five days, the horse-carriage brand, with its authentic orange color and 10-year waitlists on the most coveted celebrity-named handbags is celebrating the best thing they have – their métiers and craftsmen.
About nine stations for different Hermès products took place, in which Lyon-based artisans worked side by side to an English translator, and pretty much gave the audience a tutorial of what goes on behind the scene of the charming boutiques we all drool over.
The art of sewing, threading, polishing, framing, beading, cutting, and printing are no joke to the house. Artisans usually have to go though a 5 year apprentice period before they can actually be hired by the house, and be the experts of crafts like gilding glasses, making watches, and sewing silk ties by hand – a process that can take 20 minutes after the printed tie has been cut.
Some of the most coveted stations were the one from the Leatherworker Dominique Michaux, who was sewing a blue leather Jypsière bag (a process that takes 20 hours to complete, and only one artisan for each bag), a unisex product for huntsmen and women on the go. But certainly the showstopper was the silk printing station where one artisan printed 14 silkscreens over the 90cmx90cm silk scarf square. The process lasted about 90 mins. Silk printer Kamel Hamadou took the audience over the process of printing scarves, a craft that takes about 6 years to learn, and more time when it comes to fabrics like chashmere. Hamadou’s French charm gave him enough patience to respond all kinds of questions from newcomer visitors, and talk about the creative process for scarves. In order to present the customer with 10 new designs each season, the developing process lasts two years from beginning to end, and evolves, designers, engravers, colorists, communications between the Paris headquarters and Hermès New York workshop. Classic scarves continue to be produced, and ordered each season by each boutique’s buyers. They can produce Asian pastels and a Brazilian jungle explosion for the same design.
Another popular station was Faustine Pancin’s gem setting. Women can’t stay away from some diamond bling! The specialized gem setter has the task to set diminute diamonds over the whole contour of the best seller “Collier the chien” (dog-collar) bracelet. She used dentist tools and her own saliva to catch tiny diamonds and set them on specific wholes – as there are five different gem sizes –, before securing it with the same metallic structure. Viewers got the chance to see her in action and look through the microscope.
Another insider tip, the brown, pink and orange scarf required one silkscreen to print the Hermès name and the design’s one in a specific tone of dark brown. Mr. Hamadou stressed on the fact that there are no special orders at Hermès. Each scarf has a 10-color palette option. However, no queen jubilee, or any special celebrity can order an exclusive print for him or herself. See, “when you buy Hermès, you don’t buy the signature, you buy qualité,” and its the same for everyone.
Images and Video by Laura Acosta