More than 4,500 craftsmen and women work daily with great skill and delicacy to make bags, tableware, ties, watches and jewellery for the prestigious French fashion house Hermès, techniques that they are now unveiling in Rome in an unusual exhibition that shows the public how luxury is created.
The Parisian firm founded in 1837 has chosen as its title “Dietro le quinte” (“Behind the scenes”) to take part of its workshops to the Italian capital for a few days, until March 16th, in a privileged place such as the Ara Pacis archaeological museum.
Hermès opens its doors and invites fashion lovers to learn how 10 of its craftsmen work in the manufacture of bags, gloves, scarves, ties, jewellery and even horse-riding saddles.
Aude reproduces with extreme precision a series of flowers on a delicate porcelain plate, made in the city of Limoges, and explains to visitors how he has hand painted each of the plates, trays and vases he displays for the occasion.
This is the case of the collection formed exclusively by 24 plates of different sizes, decorated with an image of a tiger in blue shades in porcelain of the highest quality, as he assures the audience, while he brings each one of the pieces closer to lamps to demonstrate how light passes through the material.
To give life to each of his exceptional creations he dedicates nearly a month, with a total of 80 hours of work, and uses natural pigments, in powder form, which he mixes with turpentine oil.
The first design of each one of his pieces is made with a greasy lead pencil and, once the template is created, he uses a repetition technique to reproduce the designs with great speed.
Aude warns visitors that not all Hermès tableware is hand-painted, but only the most exclusive pieces.
The watchmaker is Cesare Monticelli, and every day he works with great meticulousness and perseverance to set the rhythm of the hours and assemble intelligent mechanical puzzles, full of screws, gears, wheels and pinions.
Now, he lends his magnifying glasses to the public so that they can see “the heart” of the watches and shows them how to assemble and disassemble them, tasks that require a lot of patience and concentration.
One of the great attractions of the tour is the space dedicated to the printing of scarves and ties. On a long table, the artisan places a large roll of silk and on it different metal plates with which he prints the different colours that will make up the piece.
Each steel frame has its own engraving on gauze nets and the artisan pours the different colours over them and then spreads them out carefully with the help of rubber sheets.
The manager of communications of the silk of Hermès, Kamel Hamadou, illustrates to the curious ones and indicates to them that this technique is denominated of “flat painting” or “image in Lyon” because it was the one that Hermés used when it made his first handkerchief in 1937, in this French city.
After printing, each handkerchief goes through a process of washing, drying, cutting and sewing seams, before being sold to the final consumer.
Hamadou confesses that all the artisans who work at Hermès are trained at the “maison”, with tutors with more than 30 years of experience, and require three years of training to print on silk, one year on cashmere and another on muslin fabrics.
In a space of about 1000 square meters, the craftsmen work, answer questions from the public and reveal, for example, how they sew the leather of the bags, with wooden tongs that they keep tight between their thighs, or how they spin the seams of the ties, in a longitudinal way, starting from the widest end of the strip until it ends at the narrowest.
They also carefully place each of the sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and other precious stones that make up the jewelry with the help of magnifying glasses and a burin.
Since the birth of Hermès, six generations of enterprising and passionate craftsmen have contributed to the dissemination of its values.
Today, Hermès employs more than 13,000 people, including some 4,500 craftsmen, and is managed by Axel Dumas, while the artistic director and vice-president is Pierre-Alexis Dumas.
Author: Fashion Network