September 25, 2012

A World In Season

Hope you all had a glorious weekend. Every so often, the gentleman and I like to surprise each other with little things we know the other will love. Quite often, it’s a good book or a hard to find magazine. Books are such beloved treasures. A couple of months ago, the gentleman stealthily ordered a copy of Mono.Kultur #20- the Dries Van Noten issue from Berlin. An interview magazine, Mono.Kultur defines itself as a series of “conversations with the interesting few.” I love the idea of devoting an entire issue to one thorough conversation. 

Throughout New York Fashion Week I couldn’t stop thinking about this interview. As the seasons change and autumn begins to take hold, this excerpt seems so appropriate.

Dries Van Noten- “That fashion loses value after one season is not completely true for me. You show fashion every season but this doesn’t mean that what you did before has lost its value. It is still alive and ideally developing its own life. For me, every season is more about refreshing than killing what I created before.”

Mono.Kultur- “With every collection, you add value to your whole body of work? We buy Dries Van Noten and can accumulate value on it by letting it age, like in art sometimes….”

Dries Van Noten- Yes, if you are lucky… All my collections are a continuation of what I did before. I never do the opposite. There is no revolution in my work… I think when people invest in a summer outfit of mine, it would be a little strange to let them say the following summer, ‘Oh, that’s so last season. I can’t wear it anymore.’”

Mono.Kultur- So, nothing is last season. Is this another principle of Dries Van Noten?” 

Dries Van Noten- “I just want to make very nice clothes, which for me, anyway, reflect the times and what’s happening right now.” 

Mono.Kultur- “So your collections are never finished?”

Dries Van Noten- “No, never. But that’s what’s nice about fashion: Even when not finished yet, you start the next collection and bring to perfection what was missing in your last show.” 

Is that not perfection? 

Throughout fashion week, I kept this in mind. The collections that resonated with me spoke to this notion of continuity. Not completely starting over, but building upon the ideas of previous seasons. When everything about the week began to feel like too much (on the runway and off), this served as an anchor.  

When it comes to building a wardrobe, my logic is the same. The weather is on the cusp of changing and I can’t wait to be reunited with my autumn things. The textures, tailoring and fabrics- sigh. My first autumn purchase of the season- a navy, gorgeously tailored blazer (the seams I tell you, the seams) from The Row is the very definition of the continuation of the ideas that I find myself returning to season after season. 

Are there elements you return to each season?

*All photos are from Mono.Kultur and scanned by me.

September 15, 2012

Hermès Festival Des Métiers- A Labor of Love

Sometimes it takes me 10 hours to make one jacket, one skirt. The fact that you are touching something yourself brings emotion to it. I was watching a chef on television and he took a lemon and squeezed it with his hand. He said that he could do it with a machine, but he felt that if he did it with his own hand the person eating the salad would be able to taste what he put into it. I put all of me into my work. This is all I have: I don't have kids; I don't have a family that I created. But I feel that every day I create a new family. My life in that sense is complete.” Alber Elbaz

What better way to kick off one of my favorite weeks of the year (honestly, Fashion Week is my Christmas) than with the debut of Hermès’ Festival Des Métiers- a celebration in honor of the 175th anniversary of the house. Festival Des Métiers kicked off in New York and will travel to a few US cities this September. The exhibition was a luxury arts and crafts show with all of the expected elegance. Similar to this lovely exhibit, Festival Des Métiers showcased the expertise of the artisans behind the brand. Over four days, ten artisans from France demonstrated their craft.

From saddles to riding boots (sigh) no one does equestrian chic better.

I gravitate to brands and designers who pour everything into what they create. Upon walking into 583 Park, (which I still associate as the glamorous home of many an Oscar de la Renta show) I was reminded of the above Alber Elbaz quote. As elusive as it is, I’m always looking for brands where you can feel the emotion that went into creating. That’s what I love about bespoke items and one of the things that come to mind when I think of Hermès.  

I watched as a saddlemaker hand stitched the seams on a beautiful saddle. Jewelry is incredibly special to me; so I relished the chance to observe diamonds on a Collier de Chien being pavéd. The artisans were so kind and humble as they answered questions. I can’t begin to describe the sheer joy on all of the artisan’s faces when asked if they loved what they do. There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing someone who is passionate about what they do.

Engraver Nadine Rabilloud's desk where a drawing is turned into a silk screen. This scarf has 46 different colors, which means 46 silk screens will be made.

A tiny piece of the silk scarf workshop in Lyon was brought to New York. It’s a two-year process from start to finish to design a scarf. The scarf begins with a drawing and is turned into a silk screen. Engraver Nadine Rabilloud demonstrated how she takes a drawing and meticulously turns it into screens. Each color that appears on a scarf has its own screen. The average scarf has thirty colors, but the maximum is forty-six. There are currently 75,000 colors in Hermès’ archive. The screens are printed darker color to light color and bigger motif to smaller motif. It was amazing to watch silk printer Henri Lely methodically print a scarf from start to finish. 

The very first screen printed. Even when mistakes are made (we noticed a small black spot on an early screen)  all screens are printed. Quality control comes later in the process and anything not up to standard is destroyed. Many measures are in place to produce the best product. Dyes are discarded after a week. Fabrics and dyes are stored in climate controlled rooms. Silk has to be stored away from humidity.
The completed scarf.
A small detail.

Once the scarves are printed they are steamed to set the dye. The steaming process makes silk stiff, so the scarves are washed with water and olive oil soap to soften the silk. The scarves are then hemmed, which takes forty-five minutes per scarf- a true labor of love.

More beautiful scarves. Silks are sourced from Brazil.
A craftsman carefully selects a piece of leather without any flaws to cut the front of the bag. It's a puzzle that the craftsman assembles. Since the artisan is working with a soft, pebbly skin the bag is made inside out and turned right side out at the end of the process. Flipping the bag takes great skill.

The highlight of my evening was meeting Pierre who was working on a Kelly bag. The Kelly is my favorite Hermès bag and the hardest to make. Fitting the pieces together is likened to a puzzle. Pierre estimated that this bag would take twenty-five hours to complete. After ten years as a Hermès artisan, Pierre pointed out that that the handle is still the most difficult part. The handle takes four hours to make. The average novice artisan makes ten handles before they’re skilled at it. Beauty aside, I enjoyed hearing that Pierre fell into his passion. He studied marketing at university. Without any formal leather training, a friend urged Pierre to apply to leather school.

The brand's signature stitch calls for many tools- a griffe (a tool that imprints pinpricks), a tool that pokes tiny holes and durable linen thread.

 Hermès’ Festival Des Métiers was a true celebration of craft, skill and precision. 

*All photos are my personal photos.