Hermès Maison has debuted in the Middle East in a new, and very impressive, 1,000-square-metre space in The Dubai Mall dedicated to the French heritage house’s homeware division. To mark the occasion, Sorbet sits down with two of Hermès Maison’s leading ladies, the head and heart if you will – Anne Sarah Panhard, Managing Director and Charlotte Macaux Perelman, the Deputy Artistic Director

The Brains

Q: What does your role as Hermès Managing Director entail?

A: My main responsibility is to put the artistic vision of our two artistic directors, Charlotte Macaux Perelman and Alexis Fabry, into action.  Basically, I head creation, product development and production of all the “Maison” universe categories, across the globe. IA: Hermès is well known for its rich heritage in the equestrian world. How do you think this heritage translates into the home?

Q: Hermès is well known for its rich heritage in the equestrian world. How do you think this heritage translates into the home?

A: It translates into every Hermès object. Firstly, through the use of materials that come from our roots. For example, the leather that is used for some of the equestrian reins and straps, you will find them around some of our lacquer boxes and objects. You will also find some of our plates, for example, with embroidery designs inspired by horses, and objects inspired by that world. It is an endless source of inspiration.

Q: It was Emile Hermès who took the heritage and translated it into all these sectors catered by Hermes, right?

A: Yes, and he collected a lot of personal pieces that you’ll find in our museum in Paris. This is the personal collection of Emile-Maurice Hermès, grandson of Thierry Hermès, who began this selection at age 12. Its objects are linked to the equestrian world and the travels of the family. The collection is telling about the spirit of Hermès and can be a source of inspiration for our designers.

Q: How do you decide what to include in the collection each season?

A: Every Hermès object is an encounter between a desire in terms of style; a know-how that we want to address and develop, twist or rejuvenate, and an exceptional material that we’ve met. It is a case of; “With this material and this design idea, we are going to make a beautiful Hermès object”, and we do it. Our tableware has become quintessential to the house over the years, and we regularly work with different designers. With design, it’s really a meeting between artistic directors and designers that is at the source of a new creation. We do not have a marketing approach; instead we have an approach of pure creation.

Q: With Hermès being famous for its years of savoir-fair and craftsmanship, how do you introduce technology into this world?

A: Over past 180 years, Hermès has been about tradition and craftsmanship but also, about being innovative, finding new ideas, developing new patterns, pushing the boundaries of what could be created, as well as being contemporary in style.  The first way to remain relevant is doing that - being contemporary and always looking for innovation. Lots of products are technical because when you think about craftsmanship, it’s the things made by hand, which usually require a lot of knowledge from the person who is actually making it. A lot of time and technical abilities are needed to create such objects.

Q: You also went to Japan to source the technology?

A: An Hermès object is a timeless piece. It is meant to last for a long time, so we need to make sure that not only is it going to be beautiful, but it also needs to last for years and years. For all this to be possible, a lot of research is needed to find which material we are going to be able to use to have the fine details of the lines. A lot of our objects after the design come from some really strong development research   on how to develop and make them viable. We search for the best material and the best people to make it. Sometimes they are in-house, and sometimes they are not in-house; but whoever it is, they work on the same object until we feel it’s perfect. It can take years of development in certain cases. We keep trying until we get it right. For example, the innovative Karumi benches created by the Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, who associated the carbon fiber with this extremely light bamboo. This is an innovation between tradition and technology that has strengthened the bamboo while keeping its very clean lines.

Q: Will we see any technology for the house?

A: An Hermès object has functionality and is about true usage no matter what purpose it serves: for the home or not for the home. We create timeless pieces, which is difficult as technology is always evolving. Of course, we have to be contemporary, we have to be relevant to the time we’re living in, so probably, though I can’t see into the future, we will have to integrate ourselves in the future and think about how we are going to combine the idea of timelessness and tech. But that is not why our customers come to Hermès; they come to nourish their taste for beauty, elegance, craftsmanship, and quality. We continue to be true to these values. We have created Hermès objects since 1837, which means it is first a beautiful object in term of style and lines.

The Creative Vision

Q: As joint Deputy Artistic Director along with Alexis Fabry, how do you work together when it comes to curating collections for Hermès Maison?

A: Alexis and myself are a rather improbable pairing. Alexis is a photography editor and exhibition curator and I am an architect. Pierre-Alexis Dumas and Axel Dumas knew about our taste for craft and design. Our role is that of an editor: we adjust, we throw in ideas, and we correct, without being the authors of the pieces. We are sensitive to function and use, even to wear. We've known each other since we were teenagers. What is interesting in our collaboration is our dialogue, which is highly enriching. And strangely enough, we always agree! We have inherited the same taste.

Q: The Hermès Maison is comprised of objects that are meant to be kept as heirlooms/stay in families for generations. How do you keep collections current and modern while still timeless?

A: Time is Hermès’ greatest ally. A very specific relationship to time is at the very heart of the creation of each object, which has to embody both tradition and innovation, the spirit of the future and the respect for the past. It is nourished by its era, but also maintains an ideal distance from fashion. A Hermès object is required to stand the test of time, in both a literal and figurative sense. It lives on and is handed down through the generations. Craftsmanship is essential for us; every Hermès object is unique because the craftsman’s work and approach are unique.

Q: How do you take Hermès’ rich heritage and make it relevant for today?

A: Hermès has celebrated color since 1837; its heritage is composed of infinite hues. In this spirit, Hermès Species of Spaces stages the collections for the home in a softly colored space where each object can express the rigor of its lines, the playfulness of its colors and the fantasy of its patterns. We wanted an installation that brings colour, lightness and the idea of play and construction.