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Hermès Petit h atelier, Paris

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The ‘Ali Baba cave’, full of bits and bobs that were rejected, discontinued or defected.

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Even the tiniest of fault in a Hermès bag would be rejected and sent to Petit h for re-purposing

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Stools with re-purposed scarves and croc leather

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Silk-covered mobile

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Leather pleating detailing on a vase, which is now adapted at other ateliers at Hermès

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The store on Rue de Sèvres

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Studio-shot photos courtesy of Hermès

The little sister that wanders the garden to collect acorns and bright-coloured leaves, and sits at the foot of her mother’s sewing table and picks up scraps – buttons, fabrics, ribbons- to store them all in a special place… that’s Hermès Petit h for you. She makes dolls out of discarded socks and fills them with scrap yarn, carves out the pages of an old book to make a secret box… some of her knick-knacks even have names and stories. Championed by Pascale Mussard, great-great-great-granddaugher of the saddle-maker Thierry Hermès, Petit h was a solution to the materials that were discarded, discontinued, or refused by Grand H – Hermès, which, by policy, would normally be destroyed or burnt without exception, belt buckles to Birkins. Open in 2010, it has since been a treasure cove of flawed materials from all the ateliers, and a laboratory where these materials breathed new life as absolutely unique, one-off pieces. A team of six multi-disciplinary artisans act as treasure-hunters, most well seasoned in the Hermès tradition of impeccable craftsmanship but also a few younger apprentices that Mussard believes can instil fresher takes on design.

Speaking with Pascale Mussard in the Petit h atelier, it’s astonishing, because she is that ‘little sister’. Her face animates as she tells us about her love for collecting and takes us through her life story of growing up in post-war France, being frugal but also creative with the things you have. She recalls fondly how she and her mother would imagine up new recipes using leftovers, or make play costumes with leather scrounged from the ateliers. Even during her years at Hermès she had set aside rooms and rooms to collect paraphernalia: fabrics, leathers… which would eventually evolve into the official archive of Hermes. I’ve never met anyone as passionate, I think. Ultimately, her joy of saving, taking care, and re-inventing/up-cycling would give way for treasures via Petit h. It’s been over a year since I visited the Hermès Atelier Sacs and saw a Constance bag creep into my very grown-up wish-list, but I have a feeling Petit h will be a delight to my inner child for years to come.

Petit h is setting up camp in the Bond Street store starting 20th November through till the 7th December, and let’s just say, as far as Hermès pricing goes, this may be the ideal time to start your collection. The space is being designed in collaboration with Studio Toogood, which also lends a good excuse just to pop by for a good oogle.

Hermes Atelier Sacs

Rue de Sevres

Thank you TCS for the organization and the lovely people at Hermès for the warm welcome & tour. 

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?

Hermès ‘Paris, mon Ami’ campaign at Harrods Knightsbridge

How do I go about writing about scarves without including a sappy account on how mother had a sliding drawer full of them and whenever I’d run my fingers over them I’d smell of Guerlain Shalimar on my palm for the rest of the week? Well, I guess I can’t anyway since my mother did not have a sliding drawer full of perfumed scarves – our furniture was ancient IKEA and the scarves shared a wiggling drawer full of my dad’s ties and some neglected stockings. So, I’m glad to say visiting the Hermès popup shop in Harrods Knightsbridge (celebrating 20 years relationship) today incited no nostalgia flashbacks whatsoever, and refreshingly I was able to form my own impression and fondness for the silk scarves. They were demonstrating tips on 1,000 ways to wear a scarf and my own ‘installment’ had 12 scarves in them, weaved together into what Penny called a ‘Hermès waffle’. And of course, you probably know already how much I loved the DIY style-your-scarf cards… off to try some with my teatowels!

The pop-up shop is open till the 2nd of January, so make sure you drop by and learn a few tricks.
Thank you Penny for the shots of moi!