Hermès: Festival de Métiers

From October 2-6 the Design Exchange is exhibiting “Hermès Festival de Métiers – A rendez-vous with Hermès craftsmen”.

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Six summers ago, when I was an undergraduate student waiting tables at a sports bar and living in a teeny tiny studio apartment (nope, it’s even smaller than you’re imagining, we’re talking super teeny, tiny) one of my friends went to Paris for an academic conference. We got together to catch up. I wanted to hear primarily about what sort of shopping she got up to so I could live vicariously through her. “I bought an Hermès scarf,” she confessed. I then proceeded to choke on my coffee when she told me how many euros she spent on a single scarf – nearly two-thirds of my monthly rent payment. On a scarf! But it was beautiful. I under-appreciated then, but was pleased to discover yesterday, the full extent of the skill, tradition and quality of craftsmanship that a luxury fashion house like Hermès hand-stitches into every design. Their work is remarkable.

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The exhibit includes seven work stations, displaying finished examples of handbags, saddles, garments, scarfs and porcelain. The artisans actively work with the tools of their trade, talking visitors through the many detailed steps they take to finish an iconic Kelly bag, for example. That bag is predominantly crafted by hand, from shaping the handle and gluing it in place, to sealing the seams and rubbing them with beeswax, and painstakingly piercing the leather, hole by tiny hole, to triple stitch the seams. It takes up to two years to apprentice as an Hermès leatherworker and can take nearly “cinq années”, five years, to be considered highly proficient. Each artisan had similar stories of skilled artistry and quality of craftsmanship, such as the engravers, who can take months to etch and cut by hand the design of a single silk-screening print for one style of scarf.

Here is a (rather large) gallery of photos from Festival de Métiers. Click to view the larger images in a gallery. Entry to the event is free and runs through Oct.6 – Angela

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About the Author

Angela is founder and editor of Sasstainable, an insider voice on sustainable lifestyle and ethical luxury. In 2013, she completed her MSc in Environmental Management at the University of London, at the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy. Her passion for the environment grew out of her family's rural property in Raglan, Ontario, now a designated Natural Heritage System area in the Ontario Greenbelt. In 2009, she was granted Ryerson University's Top 30 Under 30 Alumni award, because of her work as a motivational speaker. She inspired over 30,000 high school and university students across North America. She is a published writer, contributing articles to Geez Magazine, Eluxe Magazine and Feelgood Style, among others. She enjoys fashion, cooking, art and yoga. She served on the board of directors for Toronto Zooshare Biogas Co-operative and Toronto Green Community. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, with her 3 year-old daughter, Charlotte.
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