• Hermès Éditeur
  • Pierre-Alexis Dumas
  • Hermès Artistic Director

The Hermès scarf was born in 1937, as a project of Robert Dumas, my grandfather. Fascinated by innovative textile printing techniques, he soon became passionate about creating designs and constantly searching for new arrangements and endless combinations of colours. Combined with perfect implementation, this continual drive to innovate introduced great freedom into his work. This openness and pioneering spirit resulted in great exchanges and fruitful encounters based on reciprocal admiration, bringing names such as Cassandre, Ledoux, Linarès and Dufy into association with the house. In his turn, Jean-Louis Dumas, his son, introduced the scarf to a global audience via Kermit Oliver, the American Indian painter specialised in portraits of native Americans, the Polataka School of Sudan and several others.

I have maintained this tradition of encounters and networks by inviting artists such as Gloria Petyar, Harsa or Ding Yi to each design a scarf for Hermès.

Thus Hermès Éditeur is born of fertile ground. Extending this bridge between craftsmanship, our particular domain, and contemporary arts, it is a project close to my heart. There is undoubtedly an element of subjectivity underlying this specific project. As often in our house, the genesis of projects is inseparable from human encounters and aesthetic revelations. But the dialogue thus begun between contemporary creations and our artistic métiers is of vital interest to us. It is a source of invention, extension, discovery – without which we risk resting on our laurels and enclosing ourselves in well-worn routines. The projects artists bring us confront our craftsmen with real challenges, at first glance insurmountable but overcoming them enables us to extend the limits of our savoir-faire.

For the first edition, the choice of Josef Albers seemed clear. This artist of German origin was not only one of the great colour theorists. His works are also deep reservoirs of sensation, emotions and feelings that take hold of us even when we do not understand them. His work for the Homages to the Square series rests on a simple principle: to create a series of infinite chromatic variations within an unchanging form, the square, composed in a certain way. Editing these six Josef Albers scarves – or silk squares - took us to the limits of our savoir-faire. Yes the technique is ‘frame’ printing, but at its most challenging, using the technique known as ‘edge-to-edge,’ in which large areas of colour are printed on the silk so that they touch each other but do not overlap. This is done without the usual serti that ‘closes off’ the colour. We should not forget that before he emigrated to the United States, Josef Albers spent nearly ten years teaching at the Bauhaus, primarily in glass. Afterwards, he retained a passion for the artistic crafts. That was part of his humanism. I like to think that he would have enthused about this new technical adventure, that he would have travelled to Lyon to work with our printers and, perhaps, have channelled their skills in unexpected ways, as he liked to do.

For our second edition, I thought it essential that Hermès be confronted with the vision and practice of a living artist. The name of Daniel Buren naturally stood out. It was important to me to develop a project with this artist whose intervention at the inauguration of our exhibition space, La Verrière, in Brussels had been a real revelation for me. In order to keep moving with the times, to stay refreshing and surprising, the Hermès scarf had to become a meeting point between forms, a place where art could express itself freely and fully. To edit these 365 unique scarves, we had to use an entirely new procedure for Hermès: ink-jet printing. This appropriation of a new technique represented a real leap forward in our métier of textile printing. Daniel Buren is used to exploring all types of spaces and media, with his Photos-souvenirs au carré he redefined the Hermès scarf with an integrity and precision that I find particularly impressive.

For the third edition of the Hermès Éditeur project, I chose to call on the talent of Hiroshi Sugimoto, an important Japanese artist whose discovery was a profoundly moving aesthetic experience for me. The images exuded a sensation of silence and a poetic power, a purity that particularly moved me. When I visited his studio in Tokyo, Hiroshi Sugimoto showed me his project Colours of Shadow. I remember it very clearly: at the centre of a large, light-filled room, rising like a column from floor to ceiling, there stood a crystal prism of immaculate clarity. This was an experimental device whereby, every morning, the sunlight passing through the prism would create a world of colours, projected like shadows on the white walls of the studio. A chromatic epiphany in Polaroid that the artist suggested we could capture on our silk scarf. Out of this came 20 subtle variations, all different, printed in giant format. The importance given to colour and abstraction, two notions close to my heart, made it perfectly coherent with the two previous editions by Hermès Éditeur.

For the fourth edition, I chose to turn to the talent of Julio Le Parc, a major figure in kinetic and optic art. Rediscovering his work during his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris in 2013, I felt an immediate proximity to it. His gouaches on square paper had an incredible freshness to them. Julio Le Parc’s research into colour reminded me of our own approach in our printing workshops in Lyon. During our encounters, we selected La Longue Marche (1974-1975) to transpose onto silk, which works through the 14 colours of the chromatic prism used by the artist since the 1960s. I was struck by the freedom with which Julio Le Parc handled this monumental work, which led to a series of variations forming a total of 60 unique scarves. In order to respond to this proposal, our artisans had once more to rise to the challenge of frame printing without recourse to the serti method, using the edge-to-edge technique. On the path towards creation, I am particularly glad that Julio Le Parc’s long march has crossed with that of our house for the realisation of this chromatic symphony on silk: the Variations autour de La Longue Marche.

These editions, each the result of several years’ development, are the realisation of a dream, to forge links and create bridges between the world of manufacture and the world of art. These scarves establish the founding values for the future expression of Hermès Éditeur.