In school I had a friend who could draw a straight line without the help of a ruler – we called her a witch back then – mind, this was few years before the revelation of Harry Potter wherein witches carry ruler-like things called wands that might’ve made the name unsuitable. She also knew how to fold origami swans with a blade-sharp edge and tear pages out of her notebook without ripping out that bit at the end. We were always in awe – especially me (derpina) with a wad of ‘swan’ that looked like it was chewed on – because none of it was brain surgery and everyone technically knew how to fold a sailing boat by the 5th grade. Being in the Hermès Atelier Sacs reminded me of her, and I do realise this connection is somewhat far-fetched but as we entered the ateliers I was fully expecting to be told off for photographing certain things that might be classified as ‘brand secrets’. But get this, we were free to roam around – they even explained the details in the techniques and process of creating a Birkin (average 48hours production time!) although I must confess, in most part I was sneaking around in the far corner where the Constance bags were being made and heard only about half the tour (so professional).
That got me thinking, and this is where my witch friend comes in – by now everyone in the leather industry knows how to technically make a bag, but Hermès clearly proves that it takes the talented, adept hands of artisans and a brand ethos that embraces quality to make a great bag. Granted, a bag that costs a lot of months in a London flat and throw in a few kebabs while we’re calculating, but now I’m convinced it really is worth it. The ‘secret’ of Hermès, is not in a mystery beeswax or a particular stitching machine, but the magic of attention and care by skilled hands, not to mention the history of the brand’s relationship with leather. It’s undeniably a perfect strategy on Hermès‘ part to highlight – not hide – this craftmanship aspect and invite certain people to experience what might be considered as secret lair to other brands that like to keep everything under lock and key. Who knows, perhaps in the future I’ll be able to fill a few thousand piggy-banks and grow a patience-bone for the waiting list, then finally get a bag that might be handed down generations until a great-great-great-great-granddaughter accidentally leaves it in a space shuttle on her way to Mars.
Celebrating their 175th year and the brand’s unique relationship with leather, Hermes will be opening a public exhibition on the 8th May (~27th May) at 6 Burlington Gardens where some of the artisans will be present making bags. I’m so in, are you?