Hermès: Hurry Up and Slow Down

We live in a world of fast.

Our food is fast and we don’t have the time to sit down to eat it; we grab it to go. Fast-paced is a requirement in most of our jobs and frankly, the descriptor in the race that can be our daily lives. Our fashion, too, has become frenetic in its production, in its presentation. I say that having just come off of the whirlwind that is merely observing Fashion Month from a safe distance. In that constant flow of information, of inundation, one can forget to savour, to enjoy, to notice the divinity in the details.

Timely then, is the arrival of the Hermès Festival des Métiers in Toronto this week. The hands-on, globe-trotting exhibit highlights the craftsmen and women behind the haute House’s signature products from scarves and saddles, to Kellys and carats. Gem-setters, watch-makers, glove-smiths, screen-printers and scene-painters coloured my Friday afternoon with demonstrations and stories of their craft; smiled shyly when I asked about their most interesting and over-the-top creations. A Pegasus-winged saddle? It’s been done. Lesage embroidered gloves? Oui. I didn’t ask for whom. They would never have crossed that stitch if the time came. At forty hours to four hundred, it is their labour of love. The fastest element in that space was the fluidity of their spoken French (like poetry, that Parisian parlance).

Hermes Festival des Metiers in Toronto October 2013 on Exshoesme (2)
A step-by-step of the etch-a-sketch process according to Hermès.
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The gem-setter’s sparkling personality had these ladies captivated.
Hermes Festival des Metiers in Toronto October 2013 on Exshoesme (1)
“Hand in glove. No, it’s not like any other love…”
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The saddle-maker’s tools of the trade…awl, punch, Hermès time-piece on wrist…
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Layers of thought…and paint.
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Iconic bag to be.

The irony of master tradesmen showcasing their painstaking work on the same floor that traders have fast-talked and walked on, had me taking stock of time. The Design Exchange, Canada’s design museum, is housed in the city’s Deco-dent original Toronto Stock Exchange building in the heart of the Financial District.

Hermès has put on this “rendez-vous” with their craftsmen, not to blatantly sell us their goods, but to celebrate their 175-year-old heritage and to fête the people who are the backbone of the company. They are letting us in to the often secretive world of les petites mains, extending their hands to us, so to speak.

That language – of beautiful things created with passion, with love, with dedication, with time – is a language we were all fluent in once. How nice to be reminded of it.

The show has made the scene since 2011, stopping in cities in the US, UK and China. It’s a must-see if you need to slow down for a short while, but hurry up, won’t you? The show that began only days ago, leaves Toronto’s Design Exchange, after October 6th. You can catch it for the rest of the weekend, from 11 am – 7 pm daily. Admission is free.

All photos by Mahreen Haq.

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