Thursday, June 2, 2011

For the Love of Hermès Colors

When you hear the name of the venerable French fashion designer Hermès, what color immediately comes to mind?

Orange, of course. And not just any orange: Hermès Orange.

It is arguably the most identifiable color association of any fashion house. I think that growing up with the last name Hermes somehow predispositioned me to loving the color and all things Hermès, especially their sumptuous dip dye scarves – in vivid saturated colors from deep orange to hot pink to green and everything in between.

A couple of months ago, I was delighted to attend the Hermès Festival des Mètiers (Festival of Crafts), when they kicked off their yearlong tour at The Bravern in Bellevue. It was such a treat to see the talented Hermès craftsmen and women silk-print scarves, carefully set tiny diamonds in beautiful jewelry, cut and stitch leather gloves, and put the finishing touches on a Birkin bag. The attention to detail and quality that each artisan explained (with a beautiful French accent, of course) helped me appreciate their products even more. It’s like giving birth each time a Hermès product is completed. Seriously, an Hermès scarf takes two years from start to finish to complete. Amazing!

I also learned that it's not all about orange at Hermès. These experienced scarf makers described their “color kitchen” in Lyon. There are more than 75,000 possible colors, all written down in a recipe book. A little of this, a little of that, and voila! They also said that they can easily identify “Hermès colors” from all other colors. As an example, I was wearing one of my Hermès scarves, and the scarf maker told the crowd: “See, that’s one of ours.” By the color alone, one can identify Hermès.

My daughter Sofia ogled over her favorite scarves too – hot pink of course! She’s been wearing scarves since she was a baby (not Hermès yet!) and she’s destined to be a collector like me.

Like I said, it's not all about orange at Hermès. These gorgeous colors are first applied to paper by an Hermès silk engraver who draws the artwork on a separate layer for each color (sometimes up to 45 colors per scarf) before the tedious silkscreening process begins.

The silk engraver's tools along with 33 years of experience ensure the artwork is perfectly transferred to the paper plates that eventually are used to silk-screen the scarf.

The pots of dyes used for silk-screening the scarves are so vivid and rich.

An Hermès leathermaker puts the finishing touches on this gorgeous blue Birkin bag. He was so proud of his craft and it was a treat to see the attention to detail that is given to each iconic bag.

Even the Hermès thread is sumptuous.

Boxes of buttons used by the Hermès shirtmaker.

Even a heap of thread looks charming in a signature Hermès box.

Gorgeous hand-made leather gloves.

And last, but certainly not least, I wouldn't do an Hermès post justice without sharing a little pronunciation lesson that I learned on my first trip to Paris several years ago when we visited the flagship Hermès store at 24, Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore and that each craftsman at the exhibit reiterated....
The proper pronunciation of the Hermès brand is AIR-maess. The “H” is silent and the “s” is pronounced. It’s a cross between air-mace and air-mess. Got that? It just seems to roll off French people’s tongues. I am still practicing!

For comparison, the Greek God Hermes is pronounced (HUR-meez). This is how we pronounced my maiden name growing up, although as you can imagine I heard lots of variations. 


1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy. I have the same orange obsession and if I had stayed in Seattle, I think we'd have met and had many a lunch together! When I met Jeanne she said she was going to New York to see the "Gates" installation and barely knowing her, I said, I'll come with you. Walking through Central Park under those saffron gates in the dead of January was magical and what but an Hermes scarf kept our necks warm?!?
    Dana and I were dangerous friends loving all the wonderful things you mentioned in her birthday post. I know that she is continuing the fun in finding new indulgences with good friends!
    I am a new follower and look forward to being one!
    I also started a blog but simultaneously started working so my posts aren't as frequent as I'd like and being that it's about my pursuits of creating, I don't have as much time!
    Have a wonderful weekend~ Stacey (now in Nashville)