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Why cashmere lives inside the Hermès home

In an interview with Mint Lounge, the maison’s home textiles head talks about the love for the fine fabric, new collection and what embroidery means to the brand

The Hermès H Pythagore plaid.
The Hermès H Pythagore plaid. (©studiodesfleurs)

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This year, Hermès is in mood to celebrate lightness and colours. Its new home collection, which was presented during June’s Milan Design Week at Salone del Mobile, was a marriage of the joyful craft of quilting and fine cashmere, one of the maison’s most cherished materials.

What makes the collection, available in stores across the world, special is the focus on textile, employing plaids and different design techniques. 

Also read: How India has influenced Western design

In an interview, Florence Lafarge, the creative director of Hermès home textiles, talks about the new line, what makes cashmere so special and whether the pandemic has really changed the way we look at home. Edited excerpts:

Florence Lafarge, creative director of home textiles at Hermès.
Florence Lafarge, creative director of home textiles at Hermès.

Could you tell us about the new collection.

Our 2022 home collection serves a lot of different functions for humans and their needs in the house (there are several throws, for example, that can be used in various settings for both decorative and functional purposes while an artfully designed leather sheet doubles as a dish and objet d’art). We’ve always tied Hermès textiles closely to human nature and how we like to be connected to something far away or that we miss. I also believe that holding a piece of fabric helps you feel the generosity, skills and sheer abilities of the people who designed and made it.

We play with textile design beyond their prints. This year, for example, we have incorporated techniques that are quite unprecedented for the house, such as those borrowed from haute couture (the Construction plaid throw, for instance, is made up of cashmere panels assembled together through relinking—a process that first involves running the fabric through a machine that punches holes in it, then reconnecting the different pieces together for a stronger and more seamless bind.) You’ll also see how patterns are created from the way we have combined colours (the H Pythagore plaid throw that’s the result of patchwork stitching together different coloured square pieces of cashmere that were hand spun, woven and dyed).

And the inspiration was?

For the textiles of this collection, there is no single source of inspiration. We use different textile techniques to convey different attitudes, and create by learning the properties of the materials and the process of the techniques. The five techniques of cashmere appliqué, hand-weaving, hand-dyeing, relinking and quilting are the focus of this year’s textile collection.

Take the Surface bed cover, for example. It features a graphic design by (Italian artist and Hermès’ long-time collaborator) Gianpaolo Pagni, in which hexagonal geometric structures are constructed from colour blocks. It’s very much like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with a striking visual effect. As a cashmere plaid, there are two technical difficulties involved. The first is how to achieve precise patchwork of cashmere panels of different colours; the second is the quilting technique. There is a layer of padding inside this plaid, which is held in place by quilting. You can see the tiny lattice on the surface of the bed cover. The actual size of the bed cover is 220×240cm, which makes it too big to be quilted by machines.

Fortunately, we reached the American artist Carson Converse, who is an expert on the technical principles and crafts of both techniques. The resulting Surface bed cover is indeed a breakthrough in precision and a demonstration of new level of know-how. From one perspective, lightness is not only reflected in the actual weight and feel of the textile, but also in the manufacturing process.

Why cashmere?

This year, there is a sense of elegance and richness in the colour schemes used in our home collection because of the fabric we’ve used: cashmere. Cashmere has a natural whiteness, which is not optic white yet when dyed; it gives off a high colour density. The designs we have created feature a lot of contrasts between cashmere’s natural white hue and colours such as navy blue, orange, green and ochre. This brings out the natural quality of these colours, which resemble that of the earth as well as fruits… One of the cashmeres we’ve used is Katmandu (as seen in the H Tartan and H Tissage throws).

It’s an ultrafine cashmere that is so thin, it’s almost gossamer. It is handwoven very slowly and starts off as extremely thin yarns, which are then skillfully turned into this fantastic fabric. Weaving it is a bit like painting with delicate watercolour, pushing our artisans to the limit of mechanical resistance to show their prowess and golden fingers. It’s a manifesto of lightness.

Has the home décor consumer really changed in the pandemic era?

We have experienced a lot of stressful times. Against that background, textiles have often become a form of comfort and allowed us to live spontaneously. Think about how in living like nomads within our own homes, we’ve developed new habits. We now use a tablecloth for purposes other than decorating or protecting a table. We now see the lightness (or flexibility) of textiles.

Embroidery holds a special place in your canvas...

The expression of embroidery is one of the preferred textile languages of Hermès. We already embroider bags, clothes and even stool sometimes. Our craftsmen know perfectly the right level of expression required at the House: precision, materiality, coloring, dullness, it is always a search for adequacy between the design and the implementation. Here to express Gianpaolo Pagni’s designs, the embroidery covers the entire surface of the linen canvas, light as a fabric, easy to move and roll, the embroidery expresses and colours the design in the right function of the carpet. At Hermès Maison, we also embroider plaids, cushions, kits and linen in all other forms of embroidery.

Also read: The forgotten story of an embroidery by India's cobblers

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