Behind-the-scenes at the Hermès Atelier in France…

Touring the Hermes Atelier… where dreams are truly made one stitch at a time…

I do believe that every woman who loves fashion can go back into the deep recesses of her mind and remember her first luxury handbag love affair. Whether it’s the first bag you saw in an ad that you decided one day you had to own or a bag that you coveted from the other side of a dinner table, I truly think we can all recall that one moment when a bag made us rethink paying the rent or forgoing that holiday we’d saved all year for.  My moment came early in life. I can remember it clear as day even now. 

I’ve had many great love affairs with bags and have spent more money than I care to admit keeping these mistresses safe and sound. However, there is one I still dream of and it’s the longest standing unrequited love of my life. I’ve yet to feel the weight of it’s leather from the crook of my arm or run my fingers over the hand stitched leather that allows for such perfect form. I’ve watched as Hollywood actresses, models, political figures and affluent ladies in general swanned about with this bag. It’s made them stand taller, walk with a bit more swagger and grin just that little bit wider. This is a bag that makes a statement before anything else on your body. This is the Hermès Birkin Bag. 

I was eleven-years old when I saw my first Birkin. At an age when most girls are playing with Barbies and Ken Dolls and the accessories they come with, I was making a mock Birkin for my Barbie out of graph paper I stole from my older brother’s notebook. I do so wish I had a picture to share with you today as I can see it very clearly in my mind and although it wasn’t the prettiest replica, it was one made with love and a desire to one day carry the real thing.

Last week, I went a step above carrying the beautiful Birkin…  I was invited to tour the place where all Birkins are born…the Hermès Atelier just outside of Paris. Such an experience, I imagine, could be compared to reaching nirvana for the style worshippers amongst us. I was part of a select group of bloggers chosen to be the first ever to tour the factory and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making an Hermès bag, whether it be a Kelly, Birkin or Constance. 

Our tour guide for the day gave us a great suggestion as we stepped onto the floor where “bag babies” were being born all around us. She said, “open all of your senses to this experience. Let your nose smell the leather, your ears hear the tools and your eyes take in the craftsmanship.” In short, we were surrendering ourselves to the magic. As we watched artisans hand stitch and finish their bags, I do believe there wasn’t one of us that wasn’t swept away by the romance involved in creating each piece. When you consider the amount of time each artisan spends with his/her creation, you really do start to see why such luxuries come with four figure price tags and above. In fact, we were told that each artisan can actually identify their own bag if they were to see it on the street or in the store. That’s how close a connection there is. That’s also a great indicator of just how unique your Hermes bag really is. 

There is no way I could possibly fit into one blog post every detail of how much goes into creating these bags. From sourcing the world’s finest leather to monitoring each and every stitch placed by hand, these bags do not leave the artisan’s floor until they are approved as 100% perfect. And when I say “perfect” I mean that the team checks and double checks to make sure that the Hermès bag they are sending to a customer has not even a single flaw. If even one stitch is out of place, the bag is not sent and the artisan must start again from scratch. A flaw you or I may never have noticed is big enough for the team there to go back to the drawing board. Perhaps that explains why there is still a waiting list for some bags at Hermès. But dear me is it ever worth the wait to have a handbag that will outlast all others and still be a classic one hundred years from now. I’m not quite sure there is another brand on earth that can accept similar praise at this level.

Now, dear reader, as you know I like to take you along on all of these journeys with me and in fact I am always writing in my head as I visit. I’m twisting and turning the details I’ll share and how I’ll portray this story or that special moment. But today, I am happy to say that nearly everything I discovered in France and more is actually coming to London for you to see with your very own eyes. 

Hermes is opening a new exhibition titled Leather Forever and it’s opening its doors on the 8th of May through the 27th. It will take place at 6
Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET
and will look back at Hermes as they celebrate their 175th anniversary. Not only will there be iconic bags on display, there will also be artisans on hand to show you how they are created. The exhibit will take you through exactly what makes Hermès one of the most luxurious brands on planet earth.

For those of you that can’t stand to wait or would rather see the Hermès artisans in action in their natural habitat, I’ve chosen a few pictures (I took over 500 while in the factory) to share with you. I hope these images accurately capture the beauty of the brand, the people that work their and their magnificent masterpieces…

Thank you, Hermès, for one of the most memorable days in existence…

Readers… there’s more to come so keep an eye out for further posts…


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