If you happen to be in Chicago, I highly recommend the Festival des métiers, or celebration of craftsmanship, going on at Hermès on Oak Street until Wednesday March 16 (right across the street from Despos *ahem*).
A craftsperson representing each of the product categories is on hand, making their product, largely by hand. A leatherworker sits making a Kelly bag, whose handle alone requires 4 hours of work, and 18 hours in all to hand-craft the bag. A cordwainer was on his lunch break when I was there.
A watchmaker and a jeweler show how they operate, then I stopped to watch a shirt being hand-finished. Armholes, collar and buttonholes are hand done- the hand stitching around the armholes is so fine as to be invisible from the right side. When I asked if this was perhaps too delicate to be machine-washed I earned a look of utter disgust, the likes of which only the French are capable. Hand wash only, s’il-vous-plait.
Also on hand was a tie-maker who was able to demonstrate the entire process. Then a print artist- the person who transforms a complete scarf design into the 30 to 40 colour plates required to screen-print each silk scarf. On average 400 hours and up to 1700 hours of work to hand-draw each screen. Then a demonstration of the screen-printing process which, by itself, was worth the price of admission. Which happened to be free. But still. I would happily have paid to see this.
It is also timely because I have, up until now, been focused almost entirely on English and Italian craftsmanship; the next few posts will instead focus on the French. Des Esseintes sent a surprising jacket made by Smalto, and CEGO’s Carl Goldberg sent a trouser by Smalto and a jacket by Gilbert Feruch whose workmanship bears a striking resemblance to that of the Smalto. He also sent a shirt which had been custom-made for his father by Lanvin and whose workmanship is exceedingly fine. Alors pendant quelques semaines nous assisterons à un festival des métiers et de l’artisanat français.
In the meantime, a few images from my visit today.