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06.06.2012
From Hermes with love




It’s hard to believe that the second most valuable luxury brand in the world today, worth 19.1 billion USD, is still a family-run business that makes its most distinctive products using humble tools such as awls, mallets, needles, knives and stones. It’s even harder to understand how a company - so quiet and even shy when it comes to advertisement, refusing to have its head turned by trends - keeps staying in the major league of fashion brands after 175 years of history.
“We don’t have a policy of image, we have a policy of product” said Jean-Louis Dumas, head of the company for 28 years and a fifth generation of the Hermès family, a few years ago. And what does the policy of product mean? According to Guillaume de Seynes, current Executive Vice President of Hermès, it is about “quality and beautiful materials”, intelligently designed and intrinsic to the refinement.
 
The mystery of the Hermès scarf
You might wonder what makes a Hermès scarf so special and so coveted by almost any woman in the world – from every French housewife to all fashionistas and even queens? To start with each scarf is hand-printed and hand-stitched, and another well-hidden secret is that the scarves are also made with scent. The creation process of every scarf starts with a painting from an artist, or an inspiration that takes six months to one year to be developed into a drawing. As one of the artisans, who has worked for Hermès for 30 years reportedly said, he has created only 39 scarf patterns in total for all these years.
 
After the design is finished, the lay out is ready to be engraved and then the selection of colours is made among 75,000 colours. After the approval from Paris the silk (which Hermès currently buys from Brasil) is spread on a heated table, where each colour is applied separately and takes between one hour to one month of drying time before the next colour is added. Forty-six is the highest number of screens used for one scarf.
 
Before the final stage of hem-stitching scarves go through a grooming process and for some there may be additional handcraft texture or embroidery added. Last, the hems are rolled and stitched by hand. 
 
The horse motif
Have you ever wondered why one of the most popular and distinctive Hermès motifs is the horse? The answer lies in the company’s family history. When Hermès was first opened in France in 1837, the same year when Tiffany was opened in New York, the small family business specialized in horse harnesses. The family business thrived thanks to their understanding of the dynamics of animal power, its grace and controlled energy, and the craft of making the strongest hand-stitched horse saddle. With the mass production of cars at the beginning of the 20th century, the centrality of the horse diminished and the Hermès family thought there is no future for them in the era of the motor.  However, one of the brothers, who had met Henry Ford during the war, found a kind of zip for the canvas roof of the cars that he later used to create the “Hermès Fastener” and produce the first ever leather jacket with a zip, worn by the Duke of Windsor.
 
Today
Today Hermès operates 343 stores worldwide and 47% of its sales are leather goods, 20% fashion accessories such as belts, gloves and scarves and 12% silk and ties. It is interesting to know that there are 2000 leather craftsmen working for the French company today and they are spread in 14 workshops around the world.
Another interesting fact is that France still remains one of the main Hermès products buyers, accounting for 17% of the company’s sales; the rest of Europe has 20% of sales and USA holds another 16%. Of course Asia is the fastest growing market.
 
The Festival de Metiers in Zurich
On the 3d of September last year Hermès started its first-ever traveling world exhibit - Festival des Métiers – with a selected contingent of Hermès' artisans, who bring Hermès legendary scarves and other precious accessories to life in front of the public eye. The exhibition features several stations that cover a different craft: the making of bags and ties; hand-stitching and working with leather; the drawing, the silk screening and the grooming of the legendary scarves. This is an extraordinary experience for those who appreciate classical design, artisanal work and unsurpassed tradition. Read more about the exhibition at www.tsitaliyastylediaries.com

Tsitaliya Mircheva
 


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