Godefroy de Virieu: Petit h

Godefroy de Virieu, the Artistic Director of petit h, Hermès’ luxury upcycling arm, explains how the atelier balances creativity, sustainability, tradition and a sense of humour.

As a little girl exploring the Hermès workshops in the 1960s, Pascale Mussard was forbidden to touch the works-in-progress on craftspeople’s desks. She had free rein, however, to play with anything discarded on the atelier floor. “I would pick up these pieces of material and wonder what they could be,” the great-great-great-granddaughter of founder Thierry Hermès told The Rake in 2013. “I think, looking back, the concept for petit h began as early as this.”

Mussard spent most of her life working at the family firm, eventually launching the long-gestating sub-label in 2010. Crafting whimsical objects from leftover materials, abandoned components and imperfect products, petit h was established by Mussard as “a laboratory and a place of innovation” that bridged Hermès’ numerous metiers — “an atelier where we invite artists, designers, craftsmen together… to look at our material and make a new object”.

By-products of Hermès’ punctilious craftsmanship serve as grist for the mill. Despite the exacting perfectionism of the maison’s artisans, occasionally an item made in the Hermès workshops will fail the strict test of quality control. A minuscule mark on a scarf, a stitch amiss, a tiny bubble in a piece of crystal, a near-invisible scratch on a panel of leather… any flaw of this sort will result in an Hermès product being deemed unworthy of leaving the atelier. Even when things go right, the production process unavoidably results in wastage — offcuts, over-runs, redundant trimmings and such. In the past, rejected objets and remnants of this sort were destroyed. With petit h, they’re given a second chance at life.

Published

May 2020

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