Hermès has long been broadening its luxurious reach beyond fashion, with ambitious ventures that include a Bugatti Veyron car, a yacht and a helicopter (which won our Best Chopper award in 2008), among others. The Prix Émile Hermès - the second installment of which is now open for entries - is an extension of the brand's expanding sphere of influence,
First awarded in 2008, the triennial design award is open to young designers - professional and aspiring - specialising in a wide-range of disciplines from industrial design to architecture. While the last competition saw everything from a roll-up weekend bag to a rocking chair short-listed from over 700 European design submissions, the award has now been opened up to international candidates - a move that should make it even more diverse. 'The variety of entries received from around the world will nourish the thinking of all concerned,' says Catherine Tsekenis, head of the Hermes Foundation, the body which organises the awards.
Judged by an illustrious panel, including Japanese architect Toyo Ito and Hermès design director Gabriele Pezzini (the man behind the chopper), this year's theme is 'Heat, me-heat, re-heat.' It has, says Hermès, been created to encourage innovative but practical explorations of one of mankind's most primeval challenges: the mastery of heat.
Luckily for entrants, the applications and uses of heat are endless, but this year the award, which gifts 50,000 career-enhancing euros to the winner, is not just looking for an original idea. 'The new important criteria are a keen awareness of the craft skills and industrial manufacturing expertise required for the production of each project,' says Tsekenis.
An eco-friendly approach is also a must. 'The world of production and consumption has to change so it was natural for us to include a sustainable approach as an obligation today for each designer,' she adds.
Now an important event in the design calendar, the prize is aptly named after the creative mind that was Émile Hermès, who took charge of the company in 1921 with an agenda of harnessing the fertile imaginations of the designers, inventors and artists with which he surrounded himself.
'We wanted a way to support contemporary arts by focusing on new talents and emerging forms of expression,' says Tsekenis of the award that now serves as Émile's legacy. 'It's important for us to look to the younger generation for fresh ideas.'