- Photography Victoria Zschommler
- Styling and words Megha Kapoor
- All items HERMÈS
Hermès is not a brand we associate with defiant aesthetic overhauls by ‘it’ designers or worshipping at the cult of celebrity. Ungoverned by an obsession of what’s next and a constant discarding of what’s come before. The modern tropes of what makes a brand “current” these days do not apply. Yet this sixth generation family business is the definition of disrupter; a true vanguard. Hermès is punk. An unwavering devotion to artisanal excellence, no matter the costs, the time or the skill required. They have trusted that there will always be a market for exceptional, hand-made, luxury goods since 1837 and the 4 billion dollar per year house (with over 300 stores globally) has been unmistaken in this mission. INPRINT examines the key pillars of the house, it’s ateliers or corps de métier.
Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski moved over from The Row to design ready-to-wear at Hermès in 2014. Designers such as Martin Margiela and Gautier described their time at Hermès as serene and tranquil. It seems this tradition continues as Vanhee-Cybulski muses, “We don’t spend any time at all looking to see what other designers are doing...We feel what is in the air and in ourselves, I really am not interested or impressed with fashion these days, and I am lucky I don’t have to be.” This rejection of the hyper active trend cycles gives way to a timeless quality that ensures Hermès delivers investment pieces in the truest sense: in both craftsmanship and design.
Véronique Nichanian has headed the menswear Atelier since 1988 and indeed it is a special type of man who appreciates the value of Hermès ready-to-wear. He’s not one to slavishly follow fads, instead, “The men who wear Hermès know what beauty is,” Nichanian states. “They know what is truly good. No one has to tell them. So, each piece has to mean something on its own, to be a complete story, not just part of a look. Each one has a life. I want it to last forever.”
Thierry Hermès, the founder of the company and a leather craftsman himself, who began by making harnesses for the French gentry, introduced a technique at the very heart of Hermès; the Saddle Stitch. Now eponymous with the house, it is employed by hand (impossible to do by machine) and involves two 2-inch needles threaded precisely with waxed linen. The leather artisan sees the process from creation to repair of your leather good; “We would never think of having someone just do all the sewing and then another person do the hardware,” says Céline Rochereau who oversees a team of leather artisans in ateliers throughout the world. “You (the artisan) put your mark on it from start to finish; it is yours.”
Charlotte Macaux Perelman, an architect, and Alexis Fabry, an art curator and book publisher (collaborators and childhood friends), were hired to run the Hermès Maison in 2014. They work from Pantin, a vast area occupied by Hermès on the outskirts of Paris, but naturally, they must also travel extensively in search for the most skilled craftspeople on the planet, a by-product of which means saving ancient practices and traditions from extinction. “There is a tradition at Hermès of functionality. But it is also completely ornamental. That is the beautiful tension. Technology is cool; Hermès is warm.” explains Fabry.
The relative newcomer, Christine Nagel took over as perfumer from the iconic nose Jean-Claude Ellena in 2016. “I have been given the greatest gift: the gift of time,” she says. “I never have a budget or a deadline. I have never done a focus group. You work for the creation, then you work for Hermès.”
Scarves were introduced in 1937 and have been produced for the past 16 years under the direction of Bali Barret. An Hermès silk scarf takes approximately two years to make, “Working on the silks is sometimes a science, sometimes an art,” Barret explains. “You are trying to figure out these elaborate puzzles, with hundreds of aspects, so many of them at once.” Barret scans the globe for artists and new talent while at the same time looking to the past, often turning to the houses own private museum of artefacts and antiques (a project started by Thierry Hermès’ grandson Emilie Maurice in the late 1800s). She has a staggering 75,000 colours at her disposal, registered for Hermès (compare this with the less than 2000 hues in the Pantone palette). The result is an exquisite never-repeated fusion of the classic and contemporary and an enduring symbol of the house.