In July, at the Hermès atelier outside of Paris, the playful spirit of the holiday season was palpable. Down the hallway from where Kelly bags are hand-stitched, silk scarves are masterfully printed, and enamel bangles are painted with precision, is the epicenter of this energy: A whimsical workshop called Petit h. It’s here that I met sixth generation Hermès family member Pascale Mussard, the artistic director of this unique creative laboratory.
The rule-free workshop is where craftsman of all specialties collaborate to prompt curiosity and create beauty. A place where you’ll witness a seamstress explain to a saddlemaker a new needle-free technique she just learned from a bootmaker, while they’re surrounded by shelves stocked with bolts of cashmere (that lived a former life as material for capes), slices of a Saint-Louis crystal (that years ago were blown for paperweights), and silver buckles (once designed for a collection of men’s belts).
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Before Mussard starts working on a piece with a designer, she always asks “What is yourfavorite childhood memory of Christmas?” It’s a deep question for a craftsman-creative type that always elicits a passionate story. “Everyone holds onto these little moments that go from your head to your heart to your memory,” Mussard says with refreshing sincerity. “Whether it’s a special gift they received when they were little or the gift that they really really wanted but never received because it was, perhaps, impossible.”
Mussard’s idea—to take the leftover materials from Hermès manufacturing process and transform them, with the imagination of artists and designers and the know-how of the company’s artisans, into whimsical, witty, and poetic objects—came to life in 2010. Since, she’s worked with some 150 artists to dream up the unthinkable from a flying porcelain teapot with leather wings and animal masks made out of silk scarf scraps to a Christmas tree mobile made of chocolate crocodile and clothing hangers that are jockeys.
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Last night, I met with Mussard again, this time stateside at the brand’s Madison Avenue flagship surrounded by hundreds of one-of-a-kind Petit h objects. In town for the debut of the Petit h Holiday Factory that’s open to all until January 7, she was alive with the holiday spirit. “For a Parisian to be in New York City during Christmas—coming from the airport over the bridge into Manhattan and seeing the city’s lights—it’s magical,” she told me as we walked around the store.
“When I was a little girl I would look at the holiday windows with such wonder and amazement,” she says as we stroll alongside the interactive holiday window display. Gazing through the glass still enchants her but this year she has more feelings than wonder and amazement, she’s proud because the advent calendar-themed windows were conceptualized by her son and artist Alexandre Mussard. Wrapping the flagship and carrying throughout its interior, his contemporary take on the traditional advent calendar showcases the excitement his mom instills in each Petit h piece.
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In addition to collaborating with her son for the first time, Hermès boutiques on Madison Avenue and Wall Street and the Hermès Parfumerie at Brookfield Place are offering ornament customization stations, something they’ve never done before.
“For me, Petit h is my way of translating everything I’ve learned over the last 45 years working for Hermès and the 63 years I’ve spent in this family,” says Mussard. “It must be ‘wow!’ when you open our orange box.”
From: Town & Country Magazine