'What's the craziest thing you've ever done?" a journalist asked when Pascale Mussard took the media on a tour through the ground floor of Hermes shop in Singapore, which had been completely transformed to welcome the arrival of the brand's new metier, "petit h". With an endearing laugh, she extended her arms and declared: "This! Petit h!"
Photos courtesy of HERMES
But crazy it is not. Crazily creative, maybe. Petit h is a small project that Mussard has been dreaming up for a long time. "It's a project that, if I really take time to talk about, the explanation will probably go on until tomorrow. There are so many stories to tell about it. The main thing is it's a human project."
She explained that she felt it was time to stop and think about her most important values. She said that the project was born from very simple ideas - good sense, the love of use, honesty and integrity that Hermes owes its customers, and a love for elegance, discreet beauty and know-how.
In short, petit h is a project that collects materials and parts that are normally overlooked or discarded in the Hermes atelier and gives them a second chance. Whether it is a crystal with a bubble in it, a torn scarf or leftover leather after parts are cut out to make bags, anything can be transformed into something beautiful.
Mussard said she has always seen beauty even in discarded objects or items that seemingly were of no use to her, such as relatives' clothes that were not even her size. "I had this beautiful leather, silk buttons, zippers and tossed away crystals. I always kept these pieces and I even asked my friends to visit my museum of boxes. When I was working, I still had this habit of collecting things as a memory. I started a conservatory - when my family members didn't want some of their clothes any more, I wanted them even if they didn't fit me. I kept everything," recalled Mussard.
Three years ago, she felt she had to do something about these overlooked materials. For example, while most crystal makers would consider a piece with a bubble imperfect, Mussard regards it as beautiful. "For generations, we've been fighting against that bubble. It took me two days to convince them that they could find beauty in that, or we can make a hole in the bubble and use it to do something."
Unused metallic pieces such as zipper heads and keys are turned into a mirror with metallic decoration.
With faith in Hermes' craftsmen, she started a small team to create petit h, although she sees herself not as the creator but the link. Mussard insisted that it's not an attempt at recycling just to be in fashion. She actually loves these materials and believes in their potential.
"It is a wonderful laboratory, not only for the creation of objects but also for imagining what we can economically make," said Mussard, who compared the experience to having great chefs and great vegetables in a kitchen. "There has to be someone that knows how and has the experience to cook them."
The moniker petit h was actually her code name. She never told anyone at Hermes that she was working on this project, but she told the people at the atelier to gather broken crystals in a box and put a "petit h" (lowercase h) on the box so nobody would know they were for her. "One day I came back to the atelier and there's a big poster on the box saying 'For Pascale Petit H'. I gathered my family members and told them about the code name, and they said unanimously, 'No!', but I insisted. I told them to find me a better name, and they couldn't."
She particular loves the letter h, not only because it is associated with Hermes, but also because of its shape. "I love the sexiness of roundness of the lower-case h. It's very feminine. It means something that gives back, like the circle of life."
The first petit h shop opened in Paris earlier this year, before branching out to Singapore last month. There is a plan to introduce petit h in London later this year. The repurposed items range from big-scale pieces like a 2.15m leather origami rabbit, a giant panda and a sofa, to small pieces like a headband made from Hermes scarves. Most of the pieces are one-of-a-kind. Among Mussard's favourites are the mobiles. "I like mobiles because I like lightness. In life, you have to be light, not arrogant. You don't know anything and you learn until the end. Creativity, originality and freedom are very important."
Mussard likes working with skilled and experienced artists, but she also enjoys fresh ideas from new artists, too. One time, she spotted a girl on the street and fell in love with the necklace she was wearing. At first, Mussard was too shy to ask where the necklace came from, but on seeing the girl for a second time that day, she knew she had to.
"She said she's a student and she made the necklace herself. I told her that I worked in a small atelier - I didn't say it was Hermes - and asked if she could come with me. It was the beginning of this project - we didn't even have petit h at the time. When she came to the atelier, she was completely shocked." Later, the young woman had the opportunity to work with Hermes, and Mussard was delighted to have discovered her.
Despite thinking it's all quite a crazy idea, Mussard loves petit h with all her heart. "It's like the crazy things you do in life, you only realise it's crazy afterward. But I would do it all over again, definitely."
A 2.15m origami rabbit made with orange Togo leather.
Crocodile edges are normally thrown away, but here they are given a second life.
Hermes’s unused materials have been transformed into this one-of-a-kind piece.
A porcelain dining set housed in a teapot-shaped case.
About the author
- Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Life Reporter