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What each object will be is not known in advance. It’s up to the artisan’s imagination and ingenuity to take something from mind to matter. Designers gather their materials from the petit h workshop and begin the creation in reverse process. Depending on what is available at the time, objects can be one-off pieces or limited editions.
Creations range from silk bracelets, bag charms, key rings and clothes pins, to paper weights, trinket bowls, round dice, and shuttlecocks. There’s something for everyone and a story to accompany each petit h. Those stories will live in their owners’ minds for years to come.
A habitual creative focus on leather goods is largely how Hermès built such a high-quality luxury brand. In 1837, Thierry Hermès started making saddles, bridles and other leather riding accoutrement in his Parisian harness workshop, selling to European noblemen. In 1922, Hermès released its first line of leather handbags.
The house prides itself on harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit and fostering creative freedom. These qualities are the hallmark of the petit h collection and a wonderful way of telling unique stories while encouraging responsible and sustainable practice.
A petit h exhibition is travelling the world, visiting many of the brand’s boutiques. It was recently at the new Hermès store in the heritage-listed Trust Building in the heart of Sydney.
During their visit, people can also join a craft workshop to learn more about creation in reverse and make their own object under the guidance of a guest artist. Experiences such as these are a beautiful way of bringing Hermès devotees into the world of luxury artisanal goods.
A circular future
Zero-waste fashion is becoming popular among brands and emerging designers. As such, there has been an increase in access to knowledge and resources for designers looking to adopt circular practices. Additionally, education providers are incorporating circular modules into degrees.
The Redress Design Awards are an international sustainable fashion competition that aims to educate fashion designers about creating within a circular economy while showcasing sustainable design talent to the world.
Since the Redress Awards’ first cycle in 2011, many incredibly talented designers have participated in the competition on their way to establishing successful businesses. That includes several Australian designers, such as Nessie Croft of Coreprêt, Saskia Bauer-Schmid and her brand hyph-n, and Tylar Whitfort from Pendulum Studios.
French luxury designer Kévin Germanier, a Redress Award-winner, has decorated the fashion world with his luxury upcycled pieces. His collections are bedazzled using excess materials and beads, proving that old and unwanted do not equal low quality.
Closer to home, other brands focusing on zero-waste fashion include REBORN, the label by HoMie Clothing that takes excess stock from large brands such as Champion and repurposes it into new, unique streetwear items.
Similarly, The Social Studio uses deadstock fabrics and excess materials to create new items and homewares. Mexican designer Fernanda Covarrubias, now based in Melbourne, uses excess materials and focuses on making sustainable and ethical fashion with an elaborate aesthetic.
The Clean Clothes Campaign states that about half of the 100 billion garments made each year end up in landfill within the first 12 months, and only 1 per cent is repurposed. Adopting circular practices is a necessary step if the industry is to increase that percentage.
The stigma around repurposing materials still exists within large international luxury brands. The change begins with brands willing to make the first move. Hermès is breaking this down and putting its creative stamp on the process. It’s imperative that other luxury brands seek out alternative design methods, as the rate of manufacturing is not decreasing and the impact is worsening.
HoMie Clothing, The Social Studio, and Fernanda Covarrubias are also doing their bit to shift the status quo. But a circular economy is not made by one organisation or governing body, it must be created by many entities acting together.
It’s time to act. All designers and brands need to imagine what creation in reverse looks like for them and determine what they can do now. Because as harsh as it sounds, every brand is contributing to the 100 billion-garment problem.