Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One of my obsessions...and why.

I have a couple of obsessions in life.  Paris. Dark chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt from Whole Foods.  Shoes.  Most anything that comes in an orange box.  Yes, much to my husband's dismay, Hermes.

I fell in love with Hermes and their products well before I actually owned anything from the company.  Several years ago, I amassed several books on fashion, fashion houses, and trends for summer reading.  One book stood out:  "Deluxe - How Luxury Lost its Luster" by Dana Thomas.
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Ms. Thomas wrote for the Style section of The Washington Post from 1995 to 2008, so she knows her stuff. The book is a brief history of luxury brands and products, and how these formerly 'family-owned' companies that produce hand-made, high quality goods have transformed into greedy corporations, who care only about dollars made, quality be sacrificed.  It's a fascinating read, with tales of production lines in China, faux versus real scents in perfume, and the market for counterfeit goods.

In this book, Ms. Thomas writes about Hermes, and how they have stood the test of time, how hours and hours go into each product, and how their handbags "are considered by many to be the last true luxury goods in the luxury fashion industry" (page 171 in the softcover).  Hermes is still family-owned today, although they are continuously fighting a battle with luxury goods conglomerate LVMH to retain control of the company.  Her description of their production methods (one person, makes one handbag, from beginning to end) were detailed and intriguing. I wanted something, anything, made by these craftsmen and women, who devoted their careers to quality.  Nothing less would do.

My foray into the world of Hermes started with their enamel bracelets.  With 'H' starting my last name, it only seemed appropriate that I have one.
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It just took one visit to land me, hook, line and sinker. As a former equestrian, the saddles in the store (their original product) made me swoon.  The silk in their men's ties is exquisite.  As a tactile person, I wanted to touch everything, try everything on.  The scarves, the handbags, the watches.  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

So when I received an email one morning from Chic Shopping Paris (all of my obsessions wrapped up into one!) linking to a video about the craftspeople at Hermes, my kids were late to school as I sat, spellbound, watching.

We all can appreciate quality craftsmanship, and this 45-minute documentary - "Les Mains d'Hermes" (the hands of Hermes) or "Hearts and Crafts" (the English version) - is an eye-opening perspective into what's becoming a lost art.  Click here to start the journey! ~ JH

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