Monday, September 24, 2012

Ya, I'm Into High Class Stuff.

This past week a huge tent has been erected in the middle of Union Square down here in San Francisco  for an amazing event: Le Festival des Métiers, A Rendez-Vous with Hermès Craftsmen.

My mind was blown.

Now, I'm a fan of Hermès, but this event really threw them to the top of my list of inspiring métiers. I knew what they did, how they did it, and the general mentality of how they view their craft. But seeing it in person? Amazing. I was honestly taken aback by the artistry and the craftsmanship. And let's just be honest: I know that the brand is expensive and super famous and they're HIGH FASHION, but that isn't what attracts me to it. It's the fact that it's a small company and everything is made using the traditional techniques they've been using for over a hundred years. That tradition is so much more of an allure to me-- I can only hope to aspire to be a part of that sort of legacy!

Each button hole is made by hand by a sharpened tool. It takes 12 minutes to sew EACH button hole by hand. Most of the buttons pictured above are mother of pearl that has been hand dyed. Watching this seamstress work was super interesting. She said she'd been working with Hermès for over 25 years and had been sewing couture for years before she started with the company. The buttons she was sewing on had "H" designs on them... it takes 6 button holes to sew in that design.

I'm not too much of a fan of their famous bags... I like them, but I'm not obsessed with them in the way that many fashionistas are. However, I definitely loved the colors and the tools... especially since this is what Hermès was originally all about: making horse saddles and the like.

This was where it was at-- the equivalent of art pornography for me. Watching a sheet of 100% silk twill being made into an incredible design before my eyes was a dream come true. Seeing such amazing artisans take a flat piece of fabric and build it up to this great design? Speechless!

In order to do this, you have to start as an apprentice in Lyon for at least 4 years, probably more. And as a printer, that's all you do- work with colors and making sure each print is perfect. If something is off? The scarf is thrown out and destroyed. And this isn't just regular silk to throw away- this is silk they make themselves after harvesting their own silk worms! (hardcore) Even the dye itself is taken care of. When it's done with, it's mixed with sawdust and burned as an energy source. 

When I got my courage up, I asked how many yards of silk a season they go through and the group was told that it varies because scarves are made to order. A scarf sample book with 10 color ways of a single design is made and sent out to all the boutiques around the world-- and each boutique orders its own colors depending on what it would like in its shop. Once the order is made the printers make only what is ordered, and that is it, nothing more. Considering it takes 2 years from design to boutique to get a scarf out there, I can believe it.

Either way, it was a really educational and transformative experience to watch such a big piece of the entire process. I asked at the end about what I could do in order to get into Hermès as an apprentice and all that could be said was... you have to want it in your mind and in your heart-- and to move to Lyon, France! 

It really makes me wonder--- if all the money I have now gotten myself into debt with with school had been invested in moving out of the country and trying my damnedest to get into such an amazing métier, where would I be now? One can only wonder. But for now, I'm investing in a ton more screens and want to start working on my craft more and more. 

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