Hermès Follows the Silk Road
By Laurie Brookins
|Hermès engraver Nadine Rabilloud demonstrates techniques for silkscreen layering during the scarf design process.|
The Color Kitchen
Back in Lyon, as we tour the two workshops where the lion’s share of scarf work is produced (neither of which boasts blatant Hermès signage, by the way, for obvious security reasons), it’s indeed clear that, as Chavez says about Rabilloud, “every artisan takes his or her task extremely to heart, knowing that scarf intimately.” Hermès has produced silkscreened carrés since 1937, and while technology has undeniably updated the process, the level of handiwork remains nothing less than impressive. There are the men who use Rabilloud’s transparencies to create silkscreen frames and the colorists who determine each design’s 10 palette variations, the “chefs” in the color kitchen who mix specialty dyes for each design, and the silkscreeners who monitor every layer of those dyes as they move down a 150-meter table of seamless white silk, each screen gradually turning that pristine, colorless strip into a vibrant wonder of tints.
After a full day observing the silkscreen process, I tell Chavez that never again will I question the price of an Hermès scarf, and quite frankly I’m surprised they don’t charge more. “That’s usually the reaction,” Chavez says with a laugh. “But that level of handwork isn’t just the thing that makes an Hermès scarf an investment piece; it’s really just part of our whole DNA. It’s second nature to the culture of the company and its craftsmen. For us, that will never change.”