Hermès (noun): the great messenger of the Olympians Gods in Greek mythology
Have you ever had an heart attack learning the price of a designer bag? Wondering what on earth could justify paying thousands of euros for a design when you could find a similar one for less than 100 euro in the high streets..?
Well, last Saturday I visited the Hermès exhibition “Festival des métiers”. Which was by far one of the best fashion exhibition I have ever seen, due to the quality of the presentation and it’s direct interactivity with the artisans. There I discovered all the magic taking place behind the Hermès art. And let me tell you, it is worth every cent!
Above, the Jypsiere, one of Hermès household bag. Fully hand made and sew. It will take a minimum of 2 days for this artisan to create the bag from a to z. As in Hermès there is no assembly line work, each artisan realize its own bag from beginning to end. This way each bag can be traced back to the person who made it, thanks to their well kept register (which comes handy in case of repair).
As for the materials, to obtain the “made in France” label, they are all produced in… France. Yes, even the calves which will supply the leathers are french!
Le Carré de Soie
From the first sketch to the boutique, it takes no less than two years to create the iconic Hermès silk scarf!
The first one was designed in 1937 by Robert Dumas. Since then Hermès has produced over 2500 different designs with each single scarf being manually screen printed. Some scarf including up to 45 different colors, which means 45 different screens! The silk is obtained from Brazilian cultivated cocoons which are later woven in Lyon.
After the printing comes the finishing process…
The way the edges are finished is also part of the Hermès signature. Instead of being folded and stitch, they are rolled following a certain “savoir faire” which takes around 45 minutes for a skill full hand.
The scarfs alone represent sixty percent of Hermès turnover…
It is said that during the holiday seasons in Paris, one scarf is sold every 20 seconds..!
If you think one scarf is not enough of a statement, why not purchase five and have a shirt made out of them? (Or if you are a little bit more classical you can always choose from their wide range of fabrics.) They also have a very wide range of collars and cuffs.
From the first fitting it will take up to five weeks until you will be able to strut down the street wearing your tailor made cotton shirt.
The saddle was at Hermès beginning in 1837 one of it’s core product. Even though people have abandoned their horse carriages for cars, Hermès still produce and sells an average of 400 to 500 saddles a year. Today their ateliers consist of 7 craftsmen who work mainly by hand.
Leaving this this exhibition I heard a woman saying to her friend “No wonder it cost as much!”
The most striking thing I witnessed, aside from the high level of craftsmanship involve in each product, was how proud each artisan was to be part of the Hermès family and how enthusiastically they were talking about their work. All of them were working for the label for around 15 years (like the bag and saddle artisan) to up to 25 years (for the shirt maker).
I doubt we can find the same energy visiting one of Zara’s Chinese or Indian factory… Of course not everyone can afford a high fashion bag, but before questioning a product for its price, let’s think about what goes on behind it. When you buy a bag for 20 euro, think about how much the person(s) making it has earned knowing that out of the 20 euros you still have to take off the profit margin and all the collateral costs…
This being said… the day I will be able to afford an Hermès bag is not yet to come ;)