Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hermes; Hearts and Crafts premiere at NGV, amazing!

Hello dear Paris-ers!

Yesterday I had a wonderful wonderful day. And to think that I almost didn't actually go!
I started the day with a beautiful fluffy omelette swimming in cheese, mushrooms and frozen peas (no longer frozen of course.. :S) and a tomato juice for breakfast, had a quick catchup with a friend, and then decided I was tired and might skip the thing I had been looking forward for weeks; the Melbourne premiere of the Hermes (pretend accent is there) documentary Hearts and Crafts.

If you remember back to my preview of LMFF post, this is one thing I said would be a highlight of the whole week, and it was free! Perhaps this is why I suddenly thought, meh, that's ok, I'll miss it. But a sudden burst of inspiration caught me, and I jumped into the car with 25 minutes to go (it started at 1).
As if it was meant to be, I had a clear run down St. Kilda Road, no traffic, no red lights, and there was a parking space right outside the VCA building, the last place where you can actually park before it is all no stopping! Amazing, right? Well, I only had enough parking for an hour which was a risk, but with 15 minutes to go, I briskly walked past the Arts Centre, over the bridge and into the Ian Potter centre just as the line to go inside the theatre was moving. Hooray!

A small introduction by the Hermes Australia head honch Karin Upton-Baker (former editor of Harper's Bazaar) let us know a little bit about Hermes' beginnings as a saddlery and the company's mission to create things of absolute quality, a small round of applause, and we were off!

And what a beautiful little film. We start of course with the saddle makers, and the visuals of hands working leather; stretching, cutting intricate curves with absolute precision, sewing complicated stitches entirely by hand, it's a visual feast. Snippets of interviews with artisans who have worked at Hermes since their teens give a sneak-peek insight into the caring and nurturing culture within the business.

A woman who has been in the drawing department for the scarves for 33 years says a drawing can take up to 2000 hours. Her younger colleague who works predominantly on the computer comments on the discourse between new and old world techniques and how much they learn from each other.
We see the colour mixing department and printing factory where pigments are mixed by hand to specifications from the colour department further up the chain of command. Scarves are printed both automatically and with gentlemen pouring paint into the trays of a hand operated screen, again a mix of heritage and technology.

Everything at Hermes has had a human hand create it from scratch. There is no production line as such. In the bag department, a piece is assembled entirely by hand by one artisan, who then applies their own mark on the bag upon completion. All those interviewed speak of the pride they have when the final mark goes on; the bag will become someone else's but will always remain theirs. We see people from all walks of life working in the factory in an idyllic town in France. A 20 year old says how she cried with happiness when given her permanent contract, a 59 year old woman in training recalls her days as working in a bakery, and man who used to build model ships in his room and now makes Birkin bags says he would like to remain there forever.
The whole time we see their hands working; caressing, creasing, stitching, creating.

Jewellery, glass blowing to create the amazing crystal glassware, the mold makers, everyone has a story. A deaf man, a political refugee, a man who began working at Hermes through his father (his three brothers work there too).
I especially liked the gentleman who sorts out the exotic hides, matching croc patterns as if it were one entire skin, marking out faults to avoid when cutting pieces for bags. He says it comes with practice, but he can read the skin, he know what will be a back, a front, a flap, its really interesting, and of course because its in French its that touch more chic and romantic too!

So clearly I am glad I went, and also, rather amazingly, after my rush to get back to the car and the inevitabilty of having a nasty parking fine as I was 25 minutes overdue, I found a pleasant surprise by not having anything fluttering off my winscreen wiper, hooray!
To celebrate I drove down to South Melbourne and had a cup of coffee and bruschetta at St. Ali.

To take you off today the ubiquitous Hermes orange leather, my favourite :)

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