In the Atelier with Petit h’s Pascale Mussard
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In the Atelier with Petit h’s Pascale Mussard
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Pascalmussard Pascalmussard
Portrait of Pascale Mussard
Courtesy of Petit h
 

If Hermès represents the beauty of Parisian perfectionism, then Petit h, the house’s fledgling métier offshoot, led by creative visionary Pascale Mussard, is all about the beauty of imperfections. Mussard - herself the incarnation of modern luxury - recently invited the esensualliving.com team into her atelier, based in Hermès’s Pantin site where the leather workshops moved in 1992, to find out more about her world. Bringing the concept of recuperation to a new level (her motto is: “Never throw anything away!”), Mussard - a sixth generation descendant of Hermès founder, Thierry Hermès - in this magical laboratory dreams up out-of-the-box, charmingly playful objects from a vast, ever-replenished stock of discarded precious materials and prototypes collected from the workshops of Hermès and its tableware manufacturer brands: Puiforcat, Saint-Louis, and Périgord. 

Working in collaboration with a rotating cast of guest external designers (think Stéphane Parmentier, Christian Astuguevieille, Gustavo Lins, Charles Kaisin and Adrien Rovero), Mussard then sets about creating new objects with her luxury rejects, pushing the team to stretch their skills and techniques. The aim – aside from creating exquisite objects – is to experiment and tease out new solutions, techniques and systems; to take risks. (That’s where the magic happens.) “The fact that we are dealing with beautiful materials that may have gone to waste if we had not been here gives us a lot of liberty,” says Mussard, who likes to test new colours and material combinations.  

In Petit h’s hands, silk scarves rejected for weaving irregularities undetectable to the average layman’s eye are used to create sails on exquisite leather boats, say, or exotic skins with a single wayward scale, deemed sacrilegious for a Birkin, are used for passport holders, the errant scale transformed into a key feature, creating a wonderful wavy edge to the leather that adds character. The house’s collections twice a year are presented for two-week-long stints in Hermès stores around the world. Petit h also has a dedicated space in the Hermès Sèvres store in Paris, whose windows Mussard decorates. 

 

"You often meet resistance from artisans, but the only thing that can stop an idea is if they can convince me that it won’t age beautifully over time. If they have no other argument, we do it, because it’s what makes us evolve."

For her team of veteran Hermès artisans, trained to only work with flawless elements, and to respect a certain sense of rigorous classicism in terms of design, embracing Petit h’s experimental approach, and this idea of looking at imperfections in a new way, was extremely challenging to begin with. “That’s how I started: using wrinkles. We took wrinkled leather and used it on the legs and necks of leather animals. I had to explain that wrinkles come twice in one’s life, when you’re a baby and when you age,” laughs Mussard. “I explained that a wrinkled skin ages beautifully. If you take care of it, in 25 years time, it will be wonderful.

Mussard quietly glides about the space like a queen bee, gently nudging the designers and artisans to open up a dialogue, to plunge into a free exchange that can maybe take them some place new. "You often meet resistance from artisans," she says. "But the only thing that can stop an idea is if they can convince me that it won’t age beautifully over time. If they have no other argument, we do it, because it’s what makes us evolve."

So brilliantly innovative is Petit h, its ideas are sometimes adopted by the mother ship for their main collections. For Mussard, who was born in the house’s rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré flagship and formerly served as Hermès’s co-artistic director, alongside her cousin Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the two entities feed off each other. “I asked myself, how can I transfer everything that I have learned? I was born sixty years ago in the walls of the Hermès flagship. I have seen and heard everything.

“It’s like a bridge; for me it’s the same house. Things have gone quickly as already, after only three years, several objects by Petit h have been picked up by ‘Grand H’,” she continues. “Petit h nourishes ‘Grand H’, but Petit h is completely nourished by Hermès. I find that also it’s a way for us at Hermès – and me first of all – to look at materials in a new way.”

Pascalmussard Pascalmussard
A Petit h sailboat with a recuperated Hermès silk scarf as a sail
Courtesy of Petit h
 

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