Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Hermès?

I'm often asked why I'm such a fan of Hermès.  It's because of the work of women like this:






and because of the management of the company.


"We develop according to internal creativity and intuition, not external trends or marketing gimmicks." - Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Artistic Director of Hermès


"The Hermès family is not just people with the surname Dumas, Puech or Guerrand... Some employees have worked here for generations; I knew their parents and they knew mine.  Everyone has a different relationship to the brand, but they're all equally valid.  I have to respect that." - Axel Dumas, Hermès Chief Operating Officer


"With this in mind, the Dumas cousins have recently set up a committee of key employees across the metiers to cross fertilize thinking and help guide development. - Monocle Magazine May 2012


I would be thrilled to work for Hermès. 


I spend my money in a way that supports jobs that I would be willing to have.  If I don't want to work in a sweatshop, I should never buy things made in a sweatshop.  


If I have to save for months, or own one of something exquisite instead of five cheaper items, so much the better. Better for my discipline, for the planet, and for the well-being of people I will never meet, who make beautiful things for me to cherish.

21 comments:

  1. I absolutely agree and only recently started reading more and looking into the practices of the manufacturers of my clothing etc. Sadly. I own a TON that is from the poor working conditions--as it seems almost everything is! I've found even some of the finer labels are rooted back in some ways to poor manufacturing conditions. I am all for investing in something classic and beautifully made instead of the multiple items but how do we avoid it if we don't have loads of money to buy each piece? Does LL Bean make their reasonably priced clothing in the USA or in respectable conditions? I am new to the brand. Thanks for this important post.
    BTW, this was a very informative page on consumer electronics: http://www.mastersdegree.net/truth-about-tech/

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  2. Hear, hear, V -- all true; and the roulotter video speaks a 1000 words. Thank you for being both a style adviser and a voice for ethical, sane, measured purchasing. Let's just hope H can keep true to Dumas' vision despite the incessant pressures of globalization/global marketing and the ever-looming LVMH takeover monster.

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  3. Watching that video was the highlight of my morning. Thank you! This video makes me want to hug all my scarves and honor the women who've helped make them.

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  4. I really appreciate the ethical considerations. Yet I wonder how many of us would want to work in an Apple factory! Certainly Steve Jobs was presented as a godlike figure around the time of his death. And the product is incredibly popular. Could any of us own electronics, I wonder...

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  5. I followed the link that sweetsy posted. I truly admire this line of thinking. I wonder how many products in my home would disappear if ethical treatment for humans and the environment was the standard. How does one reduce their carbon footprint? Certainly the mindless consumption of clothing is one way to help the planet. I hope this discussion continues.
    Karen

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  6. Hear hear.
    It is incredibly difficult to find affordable clothing, shoes or accessories that have not only been made ethically but locally to wherever the customer is (e.g. American-made is no use to me in Europe!) and even harder if the materials should also be ethically produced...
    So far the best option seems to be to pay close attention, do your research and try to buy the expensive stuff secondhand, so at least it's being re-used/recycled! Although having recently been in Baccarat, I did treat myself to some crystal jewellery directly from the factory store... ;)

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  7. As someone who often defends "how a scarf can cost so much", hear, hear! The quality and aesthetic standards are very high. I have two friends, one very close to me, who worked for the company for years. Performance expectations for staff working in the stores are demanding.

    There is a profile of Bali Barret, Hermes' director of silk products, in the current issue (Spring/Summer '12) of The Gentlewoman.

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  8. Thank you for posting this wonderful video. As a long-time needleworker, I know that many people have no idea of the time, skill set, and materials that go into a garment. This really demonstrates the level of skill and time involved; rolling and whipping (the technique she uses to finish the scarf edges) is incredibly complex and takes a long time to learn to execute well.
    I have often been asked if I sell my work and I laugh. It may take me months of work to make a smocked and embroidered dress; there is no way I could put a price on this.

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    1. It sounds even more honorable that you do it for the sheer enjoyment rather than to make some money! That is rather unheard of these days:) Just curious, what do you do with the finished garment?

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  9. That's a fabulous video. I often wondered how they accomplished the hand rolled edges.
    To work for Hermes would be and honour.
    Can you imagine working with such gifted artisans or being so close to those scarves and handbags?

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  10. Does that mean that each Hermes scarf is unique?

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  11. For my 50th birthday I'm buying myself a Hermes scarf. It will be a real treat to own an item that still involves the handwork of a experienced craftswoman/man who takes such pride in their work and the company that employs them.

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  12. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

    I will never understand how someone can justify the purchase of a cheap product and to heck with the poor soul who had to slave away to make it. If you are unable to save for a quality, new garment made by an organization that values a living wage and craftsmanship, there are plenty of garments available in thrift and consignment shops (and thrift stores do provide employment/training to those who otherwise may not have access to the pride of working)!

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  13. Exactly how I feel. I try to purchase items made in my own country first, and if not then I want to find a quality product that is ethically made. I also shop thrift and consignment shops which keep clothing out of landfills or from being dumped in third world countries.

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  14. I just wonder how much this talented woman in the video earns??

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    1. That's a good question. One thing we do know, she has health care, maternity benefits, and paid vacation. She lives in France...
      If anybody has more information about the compensation of the Hermes staff, please chime in!
      and thanks for being here,
      Janice

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  15. I thoroughly admire and enjoy your blog but perhaps I'm misunderstanding something... If these people didn’t have the opportunity, perhaps we wouldn’t considered it an opportunity, to work at sweatshops and at least make something to contribute to their families’ lively hood then…. where would they work?

    It is your prerogative to spend your money where you want, however you work in a bakery and the United States is experiencing a high rate of obesity. Aren’t you just contributing to the obesity epidemic that is robbing Americans of good health or perhaps, like those in the sweatshops… you are just trying to earn a living?

    I don’t agree with the unfair wages and long hours of a sweatshop. And, most definitely don’t agree with children working, however it does offer a person a form of self support. Meager as it may be, it is still providing them a wage and self respect of taking care of themselves and their family.

    I’m more inclined to crusade for fair wages and work conditions than to campaign to have a person lose their only source of income. This is just my humble opinion.

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    1. This is an interesting take. Food for thought, certainly.

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  16. I returned to read the comments--and I, too, would love to know what this woman earns. Ditto the women featured in the movie about Valentino. EVERYONE gets all those benefits in France, of course--health, maternity, vacation. That includes the unemployed.

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  17. This is always such a delicate topic. I would love for every garment worker to have a living wage, benefits and good working conditions. I watched a program a few years ago that took young people and put them in the countries where many of their clothes were made working in the same situations as the workers. For many of the sweatshop workers it was a step up and the choice between starving and earning something for themselves and their families. One young woman spent most of the year working away from her small village and her young son. The money she earned allowed her to support him and her mother (who cared for him). I would not take that chance away from her. I am much more careful of all of my clothing now knowing that someone worked hard to create it. I agree that advocating for change and working improved working conditions is the primary goal. I shop carefully and at thrift stores as well as regular stores, re-purpose what I have bought when it wears out where possible.

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