Up Close & Personal With Hermes,
Our Behind The Scenes Visit to the Hermes' Atelier
outside of Paris in the town of Pantin
stellar photography via Alfredo Piola
other, not so stellar photography by Tamara Stephenson
She is the "Crowned Jewel" of all handbags, aptly named after Grace Kelly, my favorite is made of black Crocodile, in the perfect size 32cm and with gold hardware. I am a fan of the soft Kelly, but hard or soft, she is the creme de la creme of Hermes bags. Many women dream of this bag, one that can certainly be handed down over generations as a family heirloom. A fine investment indeed. The vintage Kelly bags go for big bucks, and after watching a documentary many moons ago about how these bags are made, all by hand over months and from start to finish all by one artisan, I was smitten. The entire Hermes array of products is impressive from the tabletop to the scarves and ties.
Having an equestrian in the family (my daughter is an avid equestrian and competitor) we have had our very own love affair with this French company. Over the years my daughter and her friends would drool over the Hermes saddles on display under the billowy white tents at the Hampton Classic horse show in Bridgehampton. As kids they would settle nicely with the brown Hermes ribbon the kind Hermes staff would gift the girls, and soon a fashion trend developed of teenage girls donning layers of brown Hermes ribbons around their wrist, all of this as a way to hold onto a piece of the coveted brand. When Gabby was fourteen she insisted on her bedroom being painted Hermes orange, so we obliged and swathed the room ceilings and all in a color we custom colored to match the Hermes box. The orange is a perfect backdrop for the cornucopia of photographs of horses and equestrian events she has taken over the years. Now, off in college riding on the Cornell University varsity equestrian team, her bedroom is a homage to her life long love of horses.
So, when I had the opportunity to visit the Hermes Atelier a couple of weeks ago while traveling to Paris with the luxury brand consortium Comite Colbert, I was elated. The chance to see up close the makings of this handbag, and to hear from the Hermes family first-hand about their company, is a rare opportunity. We walked the floor of the atelier and I was immediately impressed with the fastidious detailing in the hand work. Each craftsman took great pride in showing us how they create the bags. We saw how the soft Kelly bag is sewn by hand inside out, then when finished turned slowly right side with a gentle touch. We saw that much of each bag is hand hammered, flattened, worked, reworked, with much of the bag kept covered for protection. None of this could be done the same way by a machine, and it is entirely too personal and requires a certain artisanship. It is fascinating to see the incredible love that goes into each and every bag, and our guide noted that if there is one simple mistake on the finished bag, it never makes it to a store. There is a high standard for quality that they adhere to every day. Seeing it first-hand, hit home that this kind of work is almost a lost art, but here in this studio at Hermes it is being kept alive daily.
A lil history about Hermes:
Originally Saddle Makers, the Hermes family quickly adapted their brand at the turn of the century when it became evident that cars were replacing horses. However, the family-owned company kept their saddle stitch when designing hand bags, a special way of binding and stitching the leather and by using two needles for stitching in order for the bag to wear well over time, since it worked well in saddles which needed to withstand through high performance horsemanship. This has become Hermes signature style and this iconic brand has blossomed, making handbags and much more. They smartly named some their bags after iconic figures of that time frame -- The Kelly (Grace Kelly), The Birkin (Jane Birkin). Today, a Kelly bag costs the price of some cars, so this is not a small investment in the least bit. But, judging from the care and work and talent involved, I am more than ever convinced it is worth every penny, and my daughter will certainly agree if she inherits a Kelly bag. Beginning today, I'm filling my Piggy Bank with change daily in the hopes that one day I too may make this worthwhile investment. Check out the Hermes bag video from the President of Hermes about the
makings of the bags. Please check out other stories written here on
Nest by Tamara about Hermes over the years.
Nest by Tamara blog: The Evelyn Bag
Net by Tamara blog: Hermes and fabric
Dan's Papers magazine: Hermes, The Hampton Classic Horse show
Gabby Stephenson, Hampton Classic Horse show 2010
Following our tour, Hermes staff gifted us each a beautiful scarf. I love my Ciels Byzantine scarf in stunning shades of orange, rouge and bordeaux.
Thank you Hermes!