Now in Singapore: Hermes’s playful objects upcycled from leftover materials
This is the second time the petit h collection is making a stopover in Singapore since 2013. This time round, the showcase includes pieces that reference our Little Red Dot.
Fabrics with print irregularities, leather remnants, and past-season buckles, zippers and buttons. In the world of luxury fashion where trendiness is key, items like these would usually end up in the trash pile.
At Hermes, they become the sparks for the next whimsical idea under the French maison’s petit h (“petit” is French for “small”) collection, which will be on display at the Hermes flagship Liat Towers store from November 22 to December 15, 2019.
The Singapore stopover spins a green yarn in a scenography created by local industrial designer Olivia Lee, who was handpicked by petit h’s creative director Godefroy de Virieu to bring out the island’s natural charms that parallel the whimsical petit h universe.
Traverse a “planet” populated by organic forms and materials before passing through a second space pierced by brilliant light to evoke a futuristic workshop. The collection include pieces specially chosen and made for this stop: Mushroom paperweights, leather charms of our ubiquitous red plastic chairs, and fish-shaped bags take their place together with objects such as a saddle tree chair, leather coat hook and clock clad in crocodile skin.
Hermes family member Pascale Mussard started the collection in 2010 when she saw perfectly usable materials being discarded, a practice that went against her sustainable vision for the brand.
“She decided to take all these materials and bring it to this workshop, and asked the craftsmen and artisans to create a dialogue around these materials to create some new things,” shared de Virieu, who joined the petit h team as a designer that year, and became its creative director in 2018. “They are useful objects, you can use them everyday, and you can bring them with you. So it was very new and very simple idea, but this is an ingenious idea.”
The spirit of petit h is “creation in reverse”, where skilled in-house craftsmen work with a select group of designers and artists to produce functional beauty with juxtaposing leftover materials.
The possibilities are limitless, as each unused item carted over by Hermes’ other crafts yield another imaginative detour, and the team assembles, adjusts and combines disparate things into the most unlikely melange of colours, shapes and textures.
Bullcalf leather, a mother-of-pearl button, Saint-Louis crystal and cork combine to become a salt shaker, surplus zippers are pulled together to form a 1m-tall decorative dog sculpture, and various leather remnants become pretty charms and delightful moveable animal puppets that will tug at your heart (and purse strings). All pieces are one-off or limited edition, with a permanent retail space at Hermes’s Rue de Sevres store in Paris, and seasonal availability in stores in Europe, Australia and Singapore. Two to three times a year, petit h makes a stop in various cities, digging into the local culture and lifestyle with special-edition products and collaborations.
With petit h, the thrill for the craftsmen and designers is the explorative journey they can take with each product. “The thing that makes me extremely happy is the idea,” de Virieu said. “At the very beginning of the process, I know if the idea is good or not. This is what I really like. We don’t actually know where we will go when we start working. We follow the material, we follow the idea, we follow the dialogue.”
The mushroom paperweights in ostrich and clemence bullcalf, for instance, have a special significance for de Virieu, as he started working on the concept 10 years ago when he first joined.
“I was very impressed by the quality of the leather. And looking closely, you can find some wrinkles on some of it. And these parts were not used; they were thrown away because they couldn’t make a piece or a bag with this leather. And so I wanted to make paper weights that can be used on your desk and to create a family of mushrooms that would weigh down on the folders.” The craftsman then comes in to make that idea a reality, by twisting, turning and shaping the materials until it meets the desired form.
“The cheerful part is part of our creative process. The idea is not just to say we are going to make stars, to be playful, joyful or anything. This is not the purpose of petit h; we are really thinking of the objects that create something joyful.”
Hermes petit h runs from November 22 to December 15, 2019 at Hermes, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers, from 10.30am to 8pm daily. Admission is free.