The Artisans of Hermès Give a Peek Into Their World

Over the past few years the iconic French label Hermès sent a group of their artisans to travel around the world and show people how they work. This week the Festival des Métiers exhibition arrived in São Paulo, Brazil, and I just had to go see what it’s all about.

Each of the eight artisans present had a different area of expertise so it was a great opportunity to learn about all the different products Hermès creates. Every artisan was paired with a translator who not only translated what they were saying, but also acted as a go-between if anyone wanted to ask questions. The atmosphere of the event was really wonderful, and I felt very much encouraged to ask questions. Also, I felt that all the artisans had a real love for what they do, and were engaging, interested in teaching people about what they do and how they do it.

The artisans of Hermès give a peek into their world - Clapway

My personal favourite, and the one which I spent most time at, was a craftswoman who works with one stage of the scarf-making process. She receives the design from an artist and then has to figure out how many different colours are present in it. After that, she traces out the design onto a plastic sheet, using a different sheet for each one of the colours in the design (the one she was using to demonstrate had 39 different colours, so she had 39 different tracings of the design). These plastic sheets will later on be used to create the screens which are used to print the designs onto the silk to make the scarf.

The artisans of Hermès give a peek into their world --

Her work was amazingly intricate and has to be extremely precise, and from what I remember she said that it took about 600 hours (that’s about two months if you work ten hours per day, every day) to trace one scarf. I was, and still am, stunned.

The artisans of Hermès give a peek into their world

The part of the exhibition which was the most popular was the demonstration about how their famous silk scarves are printed. For this they had a huge display showing how the silk is transformed from a plain white square into the amazingly colourful scarves.

The saddle maker was, unfortunately, the one which seemed to interest the least amount of people. I actually thought this was quite sad as the saddle is an extremely important part of Hermès’ history: the company was originally founded as a horse harness and saddle maker.

Surprisingly the leather worker who was working on a Kelly bag was also not the biggest draw of the exhibition, though the completed Kelly bag which was displayed behind him was probably the most coveted item.

The artisans of Hermès give a peek into their world -

I think there is nothing quite like being able to talk to people who are clearly passionate about their craft and being able to do that while also seeing a side of the fashion industry that most often takes place behind closed doors was incredible. Hermès has set up a beautiful exhibition, managing to not only show the public exactly why their products have such an impeccable reputation, but certainly also managing to convert a few of the non-believers out there.

After leaving São Paulo, the exhibition can next be seen in Vienna, Austria.