Be it a Birkin or a Kelly, when Hermès craftsmen make a handbag there is plenty of left-over leather. In fact all the métiers in this great French luxury house – specialising in everything from crystal and ceramics to watchmaking and silverware – generate their fair share of off-cuts.
Until recently, Hermès’ policy was only vaguely to repurpose its materials where possible. So some loose strips of handbag-bound crocodile skin might find a new life as a watch-strap.
Then Pascale Mussard, a sixth-generation scion of the founding family of Hermès, staged a genteel intervention. Speaking in the company’s London office this week, she explained: “I am always shocked when you throw away something – it makes me more than sad. I cannot imagine that you would not try and save something by giving it another use. So I thought I would see what I could do with these leftovers.”
Four years after she pitched her idea to the rest of the Hermès family, Mussard has developed a thriving new atelier – named petit h – dedicated to reincarnating materials. Recycling, though, isn’t quite the right word – because rather than an exercise in responsible parsimony petit h specialises in reinventing leftovers as objects every bit as luxurious as anything else from Hermès.