Hermès Festival des Métiers exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London
The Festival des Métiers, Hermès’ rolling live craft tour, arrived at London’s Saatchi Gallery this week. Further evidence, if it was needed, of the determination of the luxury goods giants to prove its commitment to craftsmanship (and perhaps, in light of recent events, decent pay and safe working environments).
In truth Festival des Métiers is a low-key event - discreet to the point of invisible branding, no attempt to sell scarves, bags or other goodies on the way in or out, a playful pop-up set designed by Paola Navone - but thoroughly engaging display of hard-earned skills and hand-eye co-ordination.
10 of Hermès’ craftspeople have been seconded from its various ateliers for the show, in London for just seven days. And you can watch them set diamonds, work leather, screen print scarves and paint ceramics, amongst other things. Translators are on hand so you can interrogate, though there are limited opportunities for have-a-go-yourself interventions.
It feels like the stuff of school trips and indeed Hèrmes has reached out to local schools and colleges. Unlike many other brands keen to make their processes public, Hermès has not turned any of its workshops into visitors centres or tourist draws (though there is clearly an audience out there if it did). So in 2011, the brand began taking its Festival des Métiers on the road.
The show arrives here from Beijing and Shenyang and will move on to Dusseldorf. It has proved an incredibly effective piece of marketing, says MD of Hèrmes UK and Ireland, Bertrand Michaud. A quarter of a million people visited the Festival’s stop-over in Singapore, he explains, adding that the brand has particularly targeted a younger audience with the show, those perhaps too intimidated to walk into a Hermès store.
The Saatchi Gallery was chosen as a venue because of its success in appealing to a younger demographic. The London landing was also timed to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, taking place just down the road, hoping perhaps to divert the petal power brigade for an hour or so.