Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury

Film still from “Hearts & Crafts”

Some clients and friends often challenge my persistence in distinguishing Hermès as the ultimate luxury brand. The truth is there are just a handful of brands with a similar commitment to craftsmanship and innovation. Unless one pays attention to how the objects are actually produced there is little differentiation between luxury goods for the untrained eye.

“Hearts & Crafts” (Hermès  2011) a documentary by French filmmaker Frederic Laffont is a poetic portrait of the artisans and craftsmen who chose to work at Hermès “for their life to begin.” A job at the centuries-old firm is won after tests and training but as one among the happy artisans asserted “[at] Hermès, you don’t choose your job; your job chooses you and when that happens it’s freedom.” “A very personal work,” such as mixing colors for the printing process, or mastering the horse and the material, leads to an object that has a story to tell. What this collective portrait of talent reveals in the film is that the artist learns in the process as well.

The artisans, who through their work preserve French heritage, partake in very long and painstaking operations and yet carry their part as the most essential for the final outcome, which is  “un objet qui va traverser la vie des hommes…” (an object that will pass through many people’s lives…). It is their conviction that they are creating for the future that makes these craftsmen even more curious about the past, about techniques that are now lost or forgotten. Passionate collectors of ancient tools, they experiment constantly and seek the delight brought upon by their efforts: “Cuir quand manipulé, ça chante!” (Leather worked, that sings!)

Perhaps nothing is as enlightening about the craftsmen’s relationship to their craft as the remark uttered by the young lady in charge of polishing silver at the jewelry department: “Polishing is what gives life to the piece at the end of the process!” Life indeed… transmitted from generation to generation both for those who create and those who prefer to collect items of the quality to which Hermès has committed.

The documentary premiered on the Sundance Channel on September 10 but is also available in parts online. If luxury speaks to your heart, don’t miss it.

©Thomaï Serdari