Billed as, ‘the secret language of the Hermès ateliers’, the Festival des Métiers declares the French house to speak but one language: the language of luxury. While ‘luxury’ finds itself affixed to anything and everyone these days, Hermès has unequivocally defined understated luxury since 1837.
Like a travelling circus coming to town, Festival des Métiers is a coup de goût of spectacle and magnificence that arrives in London from China, before touring the Continent. Craftspeople from across France and Switzerland come together in a contemporary and interactive makeshift atelier under a canopy of trademark-orange wires and spotlighting, designed by Paola Navone, to perform their unparalleled craftsmanship for all to admire. 10 different crafts are being showcased at Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery spanning leather handbags, fine-jewellery, silk and timepieces.
In a defiant act against counterfeit culture, the specialist craftspeople reveal their practice tête-à-têtes with visitors at their workstations; the use of a special glue to stretch silk flat onto the printing bed; the process of constructing a tie with only a thread and needle, and the importance of a steady hand for a one-chance stroke when using platinum at €4000 for a few hundred millilitres.
Having recently recorded soaring profits in 2012 from its 364 worldwide boutiques, numbers are just as important in the boardroom as they are in the atelier. From its Parisian head office at 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, artwork is selected and consequently interpreted by in-house illustrators to reduce complex images into monochrome lines and shading that can take up to 2000 hours to complete before it can be sent to be screen printed, as well as entering into the archives of timeless design. 50 are the maximum number of gauze screens – relative to the number of colours required - that are involved to make a signature silk scarf. 900ºC is the temperature achieved to set the first brushstroke of a male tiger’s fleshy pink nose on a porcelain change tray before an outline can be transferred to the rest of the tray by hand. A silk garment requires 2 threads for the sabre artisan to cut away and transform a two-dimensional surface into a silk velvet relief. Hermès is the only luxury house left that continues to sabrage by hand, providing a bespoke service on ready to wear items and silk scarves that require several days for completion. Executed by a sole artisan, this fading skill is currently being taught to a handful of apprentices to preserve the traditions and values that Hermès continues to master across all its ateliers with finesse.
Go behind the scenes of ultimate luxury with this photo series (below) taken on the opening day...
Festival des Métiers runs to 27th May 2013 at Saatchi Gallery, London between 10am to 6pm - for more information visit hermes.com
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