COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
petit h as Aesthetic Possession

 

Craftsmen at the petit h atelier. Courtesy of Hermes.com

Enduring quality is what comes to mind when one thinks of Hermès. Beauty, perfection, and endurance long associated with the tradition of great art are also descriptors of the products that bear the name of the Hermès brand. It comes as a great surprise then that all press pieces that preceded the launch of petit h, a new entrepreneurial initiative that came out of the House of Hermès with Pascale Mussard at its helm, focus almost entirely on the ecological nature of this brand and stress the idea of sustainable luxury. Indeed, petit h comprises a collection of items produced by Hermès craftsmen and of discarded materials–either scraps of unusable material (due to size) or items with imperfections, for example a silk scarf on which hand painting left an ink dot, what Mussard calls a “tiny imperfection.” The reuse of raw materials and imperfect items that did not make it to market in their first iteration, prompted most journalists to emphasize the sustainable aspect of the petit h collection. The only exception comes in the work of Amanda Friedman of Departures Magazine and her piece entitled “The Art of her Craft,” where she presents a well-researched, well-written portrait of Pascale and her latest feat, petit h. (For details see: Departures: The Art of Acquisition, November/December 2011, pp. 178-181)

When I met Pascale Mussard in November during her New York launch of petit h at the Madison Avenue Hermès boutique, I was taken both by her elegance and her passion for her work. In the busy exhibition space of the Madison boutique’s top floor, we did not have more than ten minutes to discuss her work. In fact, our discussion was what dotted an otherwise tactile and sensorial experience. We first experienced the smell of the wood after opening one of the drawers stacked up in an imaginative type of credenza, its face upholstered in discarded Hermès silk scarves.  I was encouraged to open and close the drawer several times to experience the smoothness of its wood gliding on the supporting frame. In the absence of any sound from the wooden structure, the only sensation that stayed with me was the slither-like quality of the movement achieved.  Pascale repeatedly caressed the brass knobs that adorned the drawers and explained to me what pains her team takes at polishing these little accents to perfection. A unique object in vibrant colors, this piece of furniture was the work of a particular craftsman at the atelier. Which is to say that Pascale is quick to give credit to those who co-create along with her. The entire collection that bears the name of petit h, presents a multi-sensory experience, another instance of the true aesthetic value a high-caliber maker of goods can achieve.

While it is true that a cup-holder made of discarded alligator leather pieces comes across as a superfluous (even if ecological and sustainable) treat, every single piece in the petit h collection can become one’s aesthetic possession.

© Thomaï Serdari