The Handmade Issue
With a limited edition cover by Aldo Bakker
Front cover of La Maison by Koto Bolofo
Documented over 8 years, the resulting 'La Maison' is a voyeuristic look behind the closed doors of a Parisian house who until now, has remained the unobtainably mysterious dowager of the fashion universe.
A photograph from the 'Horses' volume of the of the 11-segment book.
Says Bolofo of the book's beginings, 'I had an appointment with the late Mr Dumas. He'd never met me, all he'd seen is my work in Le Monde d'Hermès. I told him I wanted to photograph the real scene, the labyrinth behind Hermès. I was really fiesty and determined to pitch this to him. I was talking about the approach to Le Monde d'Hermès and told him his formula was formulaic - I was lucky he was in a good mood that day!'
Front cover of 'Bugatti FBG' volume - the FBG, a collaboration between Bugatti and Hermès, carries on almost a century of close association and collaboration between the two brands.
An image from the 'Gardens' volume.
Througout the 8 years of documenting, Bolofo had to make sure the project was kept top secret at all times, which involved acting as 'fly on the wall' as possible when within the workshops and grounds - sometimes even 'coming in with a plastic bag and a tripod secretly hidden' so as to capture candid moments of construction.
A volume has also been dedicated to John Lobb, the footwear brand that was acquired by Hermès in 1976.
'There were so many things to capture, and Mr Dumas asked me where I wanted to start', says Bolofo, 'I chose the shoe so we could begin to walk together, so to speak. I saw them carving a piece of chunky wood to make the mould of the shoe. I thought to myself, "Here's Mr Fashion Photographer - it's the first time I'd seen someone just carving somethig up from the naked eye".
A photograph from the 'Kelly Bag' volume. Bolofo dedicated 3 weeks at a time - usually during the fashion week collections in January and February - to following an atelier project through...
... The process of the Kelly Bag, the item which actually sparked Bolofo to start the project in the first place when he spied it through a shop window and wondered how it was constructed, took one and a half months to complete and document.
From the 'Perfume' volume.
Ditching his entourage and stripping away all the customary baggage (agents, equipment, compromise) that comes with the fashion photography he is known for...
... Bolofo used just a film camera, tripod, cable release, whatever natural light was available, and his talent at winning the confidences of otherwise reluctant-to-be-photographed workshop men, to capture a sense of 'raw luxury', as he puts it.
A shirt in construction which appears in the ready-to-wear 'La Collection' volume.
Quite simply, Bolofo has tried to go beyond the finished products he was photographing and delve into their intricate processes.
'The toughest department was saddle department' reveals Bolofo, 'Obviously the saddle department was the first atelier Hermès ever had. The workshop had these macho guys that didn't want anyone photographing them. they felt like they were the power of the house, and I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to bring my camera out'.
Bolofo got around the problem by capturing the work of two elderly craftsmen in their sixties, who were finishing off the heavy-duty construction process the young workmen had started, and then showing the older workmen their photographs. 'One of the young guys came in and jealous because they felt they were the showmen of the whole thing', says Bolofo, 'and then they all wanted to be photographed too!'
Craftsmen in action as featured in the 'Scarves' volume.
Bolofo was fascinated by the silk scarf department, which where he spent time studying silk worms, how silk was made from silkworm thread, and the printing and design process that followed.
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