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Handbags - Feature Article

Hermès Upcycling: Petit h

The pre-loved and second-hand market is rooted in sustainability and re-use; consumers giving items a new lease of life and continuing to cherish the craftsmanship that went into creating them. Recently, stories of luxury brands destroying excess goods, imperfect items or materials has hit the headlines and sparked discussion amongst consumers. Burberry were recently placed under the spotlight for destroying £28 million of goods and have committed to doing more to minimise waste within their operations.

One brand is a step ahead, and in 2010 Hermès officially launched Petit h, a re-creation workshop which entrusts materials to artists to use to make one-of-a-kind items. With up-cycling at the core of the workshops values, the concept for Petit h continues to grow in popularity as each year passes.

Artistic Director Pascale Mussard launched Petit h under the tagline “we don’t throw anything away.” Mussard, the eldest of the sixth generation of the Hermès family, grew up in the ateliers of Hermès as a child in a post-war era of sensibility and thrift. Mussard once told how she would make recipes out of leftovers in the family kitchen and at Christmas would wrap presents in discarded fabrics from the Hermès workshops. This admiration for discarded material saw Mussard collect boxes of scraps and materials from the Hermès workshops throughout her life. Offcut leathers, metal, silk, porcelain and other materials were all kept in a secret room by Mussard.

Even as she progressed through different roles in the company, Mussard would still collect these materials, many of which have small defects, such as scratches on metal, were prototypes that never quite made it all the way or discontinued pieces.

Hermès Vert Anis Swift Leather & Natural Toile Petit H PM Skeleton Tote available at Xupes

Mussard went on to combine the different materials, and using the know-how of their skilled artisans, created items that she says should be: “Incredibly stimulating, satisfying and joyful.” The materials are described by the house as “genuine gems” and are reborn by their artisans, including saddle-leatherworkers, silversmiths, seamstress, glassmakers, porcelain craftsmen among others. The gems are imagined into items including jewellery, homewares, and even handbags.

The Petit h workshop has created an assortment of unexpected objects which are sold at travelling exhibitions at Hermès stores worldwide and permanently at the brands 17 Rue De Sèvres store in Paris. Items are often produced in very small numbers and each is likely to be uniquely crafted.

Hermès Soleil Epsom Leather & Rouge H Felt Petit H GM Skeleton Tote available at Xupes

At Xupes we currently have a selection of pre-owned Petit h Skeleton Tote bags in our collection. Made of leather cuts, these bags were created by the artist Gustavo Lins, who is a renowned Brazilian couturier and joined the Petit h workshop in 2010. Inspired by the cuts made in the leather skins found in the workshops, Lins combined the cuts with a felt base and created a pattern now found on this collection of bags, cases and pouches. These particular examples showcase the silhouette of a Hermès Birkin and this is emphasised by the contrasting colours used. As pre-owned pieces, these Skeleton bags are the ultimate choice in sustainability as not only do they originate from manufacturing offcuts, they are second-hand pieces.

Whether you think Hermès to be the unlikely leader in up-cycling and sustainable working practices, the house have grasped the concept brilliantly. The pieces they create are bespoke and tell a story of the highly-skilled craftsmanship that went into their production.

Discover our full collection of pre-loved Hermès handbags and accessories online at Xupes today.