Hermès: Festival des Métiers

The Festival of the Craftsmen. Hermès‘ craftsmen. The people behind one of the most luxurious brands in the world.

Thierry Hermès established the Hermès as a harness workshop for European noblemen on the Grands Boulevards quarters of Paris in 1837. When his son, Charles-Émile Hermès, took over he introduced saddlery and the Haut à Courroies bag which was had a purpose for riders to easily carry their saddles. Hermès grew into a company called Hermès Frères and in 1922 they introduced handbags for women.

The Kelly Bag and the Birkin Bag are probably the most famous handbags Hermès offers, and they have a connected history. In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly was published in Life carrying a Sac à dépêches bag. She had been holding it in front of herself, covering up her pregnancy. This picture and handbag became quite popular, where the public started calling the bag for The Kelly bag. Hermès adopted the name and made the handbag even more popular. Later, actress Jane Birkin complained about the Kelly bag being to small for everyday use, so she was offered to co-design the Birkin bag. And so she did. She stopped wearing it after stating she got tendonitis from the bag.

Hermès hasn’t always been successful. The company reached a bottom, and required Jean-Louis Dumas (chairman in 1978) to make the company rise. And by pulling in new designer and changing the focus of the firm, the managed to lift the entire company.

Hermès sales are composed of about 30% leather goods, 15% clothes, 12% scarves, and 43% other wares. The company licenses no products and keeps tight control over the design and manufacture of its vast inventory. (Wikipedia)

Now to the festival. Hermès provides great service to their costumers and it is equally important to them to honor their craftsmen. Without their craftsmen, Hermès wouldn‘t be where they are today. They have their watchmakes, designers, shirt-makers, leather specialists, handbag makers, scarf printers etc. etc. There are so many people involved in the company, but still, there’s only one person creating your handbag. If you by a handbag from Hermès, you can either order or buy in one of their stores (if available), depending on the bag, one person will spend 18 hours (Kelly bag) or up to 24 hours (Birkin bag) in creating your handbag. If some problems occur with your handbag, you have to send it back to Paris and the craftsman who made your bag will have to repair it. How do they know who made your bag? It’s written inside the seaming. They also use one thread to sew the whole bag, so there won‘t be any knots or other imperfections on the seaming’s appearance. One might have to wait some months in order to get the handbag, sometimes it may be up to two years (very rarely).

When it comes to the bracelets, the diamonds are inserted one by one (by one person of course) and then protective layers are added and the excessive layers are removed. You can see the size of the diamonds in the pictures below.

The watchmaker also makes the watch from scratch to the wearable watch. Their workshop is located in Switzerland in order to stay close to the manufacturers. They use fake rubies inside the watch for increased performance ( there was a really good reason for why they are fake, but I didn’t catch why).

The scarves are also color printed by one man. They start from the darkest to the brightest color and from the largest to smallest pattern or motive. Printing a scarf may take all from a couple of hours to 2000 hours, depending on how many colors that has to be printed on. The process involves a graphic designer who adapts the pattern or motive to the size and material needed and then someone who weaves the silk before the pattern is printed on the silk. In the end, the colors are printed on the pattern.

We didn‘t get a chance to talk to the shirt makers or the people sewing the ties, but we did talk to the woman who paints the glasses. She had us all fooled by thinking that Hermès uses stencils or something to paint on, in order to get the pattern right, but no. She didn’t use anything. Just the glass and the paintbrush.

Everything Hermès does and makes is incredibly impressive and we got a better understanding of why the brand is so expensive. Check out the pictures and see how close we were to the craftsmen and women. Today is the last day of the festival in New York, and they will now be travelling to other places in the world to show people what Hermès really is and how it’s made.

Can you see the diamond?

Ida wearing Hermès watch

Me wearing a Hermès watch

The silk scarf containing 46 different colors. Over 2000 hours were spent when creating this scarf.