Hermes Festival des Metiers

Hermes reveals its secrets at the Design Exchange

Hermes' Festival des Metiers just landed in Toronto after stints in different cities all over the world, including most recently London and Dusseldorf. The traveling exhibition brings to light the Parisian fashion house's time-honoured traditions in crafting the finest objects - expert artisans straight out of the Hermes' workshop in France have taken root in the Design Exchange (234 Bay Street) to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the brand's painstaking production processes.

Suffice to say, it's no coincidence that every silk scarf and Kelly handbag has not a stitch out of place; perfection like that can only be achieved with years of heritage, skillful hands, and the highest of high standards.

The space is filled to the brim with about a dozen fascinating workstations, each dedicated to one element of Hermes. The event only runs from today (October 2) until Sunday (October 6) before it picks up and heads to the next city.

Here are 5 things to check out at Hermes' Festival des MĂŠtiers.

1. Dessinateur - Engraver
Hermes is famous for their silk prints, and it's no surprise why. An illustrator draws for about 2000 hours -- that's 1-2 years on just one print. The artist at the Design Exchange explained how she must create a separate illustration for every shade before sending it to the next department for screen-printing. At the time, she had 46 laid out along with the final product: a scarf depicting a native woman over a classic orange backdrop.

2. Remailleur - Twin Set Linker
Hermès incorporates their silk prints on pieces of clothing; it's a marvel to see how such a delicate material is attached to something like a rugged knit. Donatella, the twin set linker, demonstrates how it's done: with a round loom and never too much precision. Plus, there's a rack next to her station of adorable children's clothing finished in the same way, including a teal kimono and a suede pencil skirt.

3. Sertisseur - Gem Setter
I approached the gem setter's station midway through bedazzling a single pyramid stud on an Hermès cuff. Using many tiny tools, Tony pierces holes in the metal, forces in a diamond, and forms prongs to hold it in place. If you're extra keen, he'll even let you examine every detail through his microscope.

4. Maroquinier - Leather Worker
Amandine, the leather worker, sits around piles of uncut leather waiting to be turned into Birkins. When I walked up, she was hammering into a handbag strap using something that looked a lot like a very sharp fork - a necessary step to form holes for hand stitching.

5. Peinture Sur Porcel - Porcelain Painter
Much like the dessinateur, the porcelain painter works in layers to illustrate a single image. Christine works directly on blank pieces of china, using only a carbon transfer as an outline. With her slim brushes, paint sets, and a very steady hand in tow, she applies every stroke of colour before having the piece cured. During my visit, she was meticulously working away at a rectangular tray, creating a realistic portrait of tiger in its dead centre.

Photo by Julia Stead

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