To the delight of Vancouver fashionistas, Hermès popped up at Jack Poole Plaza last week to offer a unique insider look at the inner workings of the luxury fashion house – for free! The temporary “Hermès at Work” building housed several stations featuring Hermès craftspeople, highlighting their craft, from handbags and jewellery, to scarves and watches. The pop-up showed the intimacy of the Hermès workshops, and demonstrated to curious on-lookers the incredible amount of time, talent, emotion and skill necessary to create each and every Hermès piece.
Each Hermès craftsman and craftswoman, imported straight from France, had a translator on-hand at their assigned station to provide translation to the guests. The craftspeople demonstrated their skills, shared their passion and pride for their work, and answered questions on everything from what kind of training they received, to how long a piece takes to complete.
The Porcelain Painter
Hermès’ porcelain is meticulously hand-painted. The workmanship that goes into these pieces was evident as the artisan continued to decorate an incredibly detailed porcelain plate design in front of on-lookers. Once she had the outline complete, the craftswoman began the seemingly painstaking process of painting each tiny section. Apparently, mastery of the firing process is just as important as the painting process! Six or seven firings are necessary to finish a single piece.
The Silk Printer
Every Hermès silk scarf is given its beautiful design thanks to the talented silk printer. Colourful dyes, one frame at a time, are imprinted on the silk which lies on a gauze-covered steel frame. The artisan was in the middle of creating this particular design, with shades of dark blue, bright red and mustard yellow. Interestingly, he mentioned that Hermès does not have a marketing department – they are not bound by what is trending, what is in style – their creative team is completely in charge of what dye colours and designs they want to create and use!
The detail and attention required to make each Hermès watch is truly astounding. There are hundreds and sometimes even thousands of miniscule components necessary to make time tick, and each piece must be assembled delicately and within one hundredth of a millimetre precision!
The watchmaker explains to onlookers the significance of one of the most unique Hermès watches he works on, “Le Temps Suspendu”. This particular watch, when you press the pusher on the left side, stops the hands on the watch from moving – however, the watch continues to keep trick of time on the inside. Press the pusher once again, and the time will return to the correct time. The artisan suggests the piece can be considered an incredibly thoughtful and romantic gift: does someone make time stand still for you? What better way to demonstrate this than with a watch that can do just that.
The Gem Setter
See the print-out with multi-coloured dots? Each of those dots represents the gems to be set in a particular item of jewellery, from sapphires and rubies, to emeralds, diamonds and more. Using a high-powered magnifying glass and a steel tip known as a setting tool, this artisan takes each gem and lifts up the gold tabs and folds them over the stone to hold it in place. If a bracelet has 2,500 diamonds, this process is completed 2,500 times, with each gem being set with either three or four gold tabs, depending on the model. An amazing amount of high precision work for one piece!
One of the most well-known Hermès pieces is of course the Kelly bag. The leatherworker is responsible for hand-making this and other Hermès bags in a puzzle-like format. They cut an armful of linen thread and sheath it in beeswax before compiling the various leather pieces together and using a criss-cross saddle stitch to guarantee the bag’s prolonged durability.
The artisan explains to the crowd that there is a great deal of experience necessary to create some of Hermès’ exclusive bags, in some cases 10 years of experience is required to work on a particular style of bag!
Fun Fact: if an Hermès bag is a special order, the bag will have a horseshoe stamp added to the bag, next to the Hermès Paris stamp. A special order can take up to 1 or 2 years to be completed – but the artisan says she has never seen a customer have an issue with that, they are always more than happy to wait!
The next time you see an Hermès purse, scarf or watch on display in a storefront window, take a moment to think about the incredible craftsmanship that went into creating it, it sure is remarkable!
Britta is the founder of VancouverVogue.com, a fashion and beauty blog based out of Vancouver, Canada. Britta is a prominent member of the Vancouver fashion and beauty community, and is also a luxury and lifestyle brand PR specialist with White Rabbit Communications.