How Hermès Ties And Scarves Are Made, From Thread To Orange Box To Digital App
The fabled label founded by Thierry Hermès in 1837 made its mark with exceptional leather goods, from reins and saddles to its now iconic handbags much coveted by women. And while the French company began with the manipulation of leather, it also built a mill in pursuit of perfecting another material—silk for scarves and neckties.
“At Hermès, we make the tie or the scarf from the thread to the orange box,” says Christophe Goineau, creative director of men's silks for Hermès. “In our own ateliers, we go through each step of the process... We love to make things. We believe that each step is very important, and there are lots of details we care about.”
He’s not kidding. There really are many details in the many steps that go into the making of a 55-inch scarf or a double-sided muffler or a silk twill tie.
It begins in nature. A female moth lays 300 eggs, which become silkworms that each devour 15 kilos of mulberry leaves in order to weave silk cocoons. These skeins of raw silk are then processed (unwound, thrown, reeled, gummed, weaved, de-gummed) into silk twill, a transformation that takes almost three months.
Only then, when refined fabric is achieved, does the process of creation begins, from engraving to coloring to printing, another round of many details that takes even more patience. A quick example: An engraver must perfectly translate all the nuances of a design through permutations of color combinations. If a design has 30 colors, it takes between 400 to 600 hours to complete the job, and this is just the initial stage of making a scarf.
But while Hermès has a preference for the traditional and, yes, slower way of creating its goods, you cannot say that it is a step behind the times. The house offers non-traditional ways for consumers to experience its silk accessories, and it does this with the playful wit and intelligent humor that is its trademark.
Take the Tie Break app, an elegant escape from the burden of work with its tongue-in-cheek cartoon strips, vintage games, and even a voyeuristic access to the Hermès man’s way of life. There’s also La Maison des Carres website, a comprehensive gallery of the brand’s prints presented in all their graphic glory (head to La Chambre des Garçons or the room of silk reserved for men).
Through these digital platforms, which are at once iconic and irreverent, Hermès lifts the veil, revealing a softer side to luxury: It shouldn't be taken too seriously; you can enjoy it and even have fun with it. Which really is the modern way to approach these precious handmade goods.
Here, we talk more with Goineau to learn how these precious objects are made.
ESQUIRE: When creating your luxury silks, what traditional methods do you still follow?
Christophe Goineau: As a standard, quality is the only word we all follow in Hermès. For example, the inside should be as nice as the outside. At the same time, we always ask ourselves, “How can we do it better?”
However, creation comes first. We pay a lot of attention to following our own ways in designs. From a sketch to the final product, there are many steps, and we try to do each of them with an attention to detail.
We do believe that every detail is not a detail. We simply try to do it the best way. Sometime we can spend hours on a small thing that nobody will ever notice, but we love to work that way. Last but not least, we love to play with colors.
ESQ: What advances in technology have you applied in its production?
CG: Not that much as it is hard to change things that are done by hand. However, in the print, for example, we are still using the flat screen in Lyon but we recently added the ink jet. This opens up new kind of opportunities in design and also in coloration. It takes a few years for our team in Lyon to understand the process, then to reach the level of quality, and finally to be able to do these new things.
ESQ: The brand is positioning itself between heritage and modern technology. How does a traditional luxury brand like Hermès adapt itself to the demands of the digital age?
CG: Heritage is the way we are working, the time we take to do things, the target of quality, and also the beautiful archives we have. When taking this into account, it is even easier to do what you want in a very modern way with the help of such heritage. The best example is the heavy twill tie collection: The designs are very modern and connected to a man living in big cities.
ESQ: What is your favorite feature in the Tie Break app?
CG: I love the “Try It On Your Shirt!” For me, this was a bit like a dream, to see patterns and colors like that. It’s fun, simple, and efficient. I must say that I also like the little games and videos a lot as they make me laugh each time!
Actually, this is very connected to the way people see and buy ties today. The fact is wearing a tie now is a pleasure and no longer an obligation. This difference is fundamental. In a way, the tie is more of a fashion accessory and a “hot product” today compared to 10 years ago. The tie has become more personal and a matter of individual choice; it expresses the real personality of its owner.
The richness of our collections and the creativity of Hermès patterns, prints, and shapes are essential. Fabrics can also bring new effects and combinations (knitted, woven cotton and silk, façonnée). We can say that the Hermès tie is in constant evolution.
ESQ: As creative director of the men's silk division, which parts of your personal style and artistic preferences make their way into your textile designs, and how do you marry them with the brand’s timeless vision?
CG: I have had the chance to work for Hermès for over 25 years. This is very long, especially in fashion! I must say that now designing a collection comes quite naturally. As I quite often say, I see a collection as a new chapter of a book. You need to keep the same characters, but you have to change them a little. If you do not change them, the reader gets bored. Yet if you change them too much, you do not recognize them and the reader is lost.
I like the idea of a constant evolution rather than trying to reach a permanent revolution. When you buy a Hermès product, you generally keep it for a long time!
I like to say “classic so modern, modern so classic.” If you look at the classic design today, you’ll see that many details changed during a few years, like the size of the design, type of patterns... and finally the colors, of course. All these elements make them fresh and new.