I recently got a chance to check out Hermes’ “Festival des Metiers” at 583 Park Avenue, a suggestion from the design team. The breathtaking exhibition, in New York through the weekend (before it moves to San Francisco and then Houston), lets the public into the world of Hermès. Visitors can see the side of the luxury brand that others can’t: the craftsmanship, and the personality that goes into each and every piece that receives the storied Hermès icon.
It is a celebration of the tradition behind the Hermès, the process that has remained unchanged for one simple reason: it is the very best.
The festival gives the buyers and the fans an intimate look about what goes into each piece, and to truly understand what makes a product Hermès.
There are multiple stations and product demonstrations, where you can watch and learn from the craftsmen, who proudly narrate the details of each stage in the process. At the silk station, you can watch the silk for a scarf, pochette or tie being made.
I learned from silk maker Kamel Hamadou, as he discussed the two year process, including the making of the over 75,000 colors by Hermès artisans in a kitchen in Lyon, France. When asked how long he and his “imprimeur sur soe” or silk printer had been working together, he replied “Thirty five years. That is why Hermes is a house with meaning.”
In leather goods, you can see a saddler craft and and construct the beautiful saddles, doing everything from paring, cutting, stitching to hammering and sewing. The saddler that I spoke with had been with Hermès for 19 years.
I also watched as Pierre, a maroquinier (leatherworker), glued, hammered, sewed and stitched a Kelly bag, a process that takes roughly 18 hours, and is done completely by a single person. You can watch Pierre in action here.
Until September 9th, you can watch these artisans and craftsmen make scarves and ties, sew shirts, engrave, tinker with a watch movement, make a saddle, or construct a Birkin bag. You can watch as a tie-maker artfully sews, explaining the process she goes through to ensure that the seams are invisible and that the tie will last a lifetime.
Hermès ties are made completely by hand, and will take an experienced maker about 10 minutes per. It only enters a machine after it is completely finished, where it undergoes a process that protects the silk and ensures its longevity. The work of Hermès is a lesson is quality and craftsmanship, and this exhibition is evidence and justification for their history and esteem.
The exhibition visits 33 cities, and will be in New York through the weekend. It is a must see.