petit h: One-of-a-kind Hermès for the Holidays

The iconic French fashion house launches their twice-annual collection of unique designs.

Courtesy Hermès
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For the Hermès superfan (and they’re out there) there is no bigger prize, no better gift, than a piece from the “petit h” collection. Never heard of the one-of-a-kind range of leather and silk goods? Once you do, you’ll never forget.

Let’s say there was a shade of chocolate brown pebbled calfskin created for a Birkin that, in the end, was deemed too light for a handbag. What to do with the leather? It’s gorgeous. Perfect even. Just not what the atelier on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré desired. This is where Pascale Mussard, great-great-granddaughter of Thierry Hermès, comes in. Mussard and her team of black-belt artisans take the leftover materials from the Hermès manufacturing process and transform them into, well, anything. In Mussard’s “petit h” atelier the craftsmen become laboratory scientists. The concept of “petit h,” after all, is to preserve the craft and to push innovation. There is just one rule: the finished product must be functional.

Twice each year, in only one city, arrives a cornucopia of one-of-a-kind items: bags, earrings, ornaments, wardrobes, the chicest advent calendar you’ve ever seen, silk turbans, and, in the case of the brown pebbled calfskin, a $133,000 life-sized pony with a mane best described as dreadlocks.

“You’re right!” Mussard said last Thursday, the night the 2017 “petit h” collection was unveiled at the Hermès store on Madison Avenue in New York. “They are dreadlocks. That’s why we named the horse Marley.” As in Bob Marley. Did it pass the one rule, you ask?

“I think it’s something to lay your coat on, no?” Mussard says with a grin. “Perhaps your car keys on the ears?”

The store is teeming with the aforementioned superfans. And in the storied Hermès universe Mussard would be their Justin Bieber. Every few minutes our conversation is interrupted with a shopper wanting to praise her, meet her, or ask her a question about a six-foot-tall monkey (whose tail becomes a coat rack) that is seemingly made from origami using paper from Hermes shopping bags but is actually leather.

“Merci, merci,” Mussard says over and over. “Sometimes, when I travel to the U.S. or Korea, I feel like Madonna on tour,” she jokes. For Mussard, who has worked at her family’s business in various capacities for more than 40 years, this is her runway show of sorts: The unveiling of her team’s efforts for the past six months. And while she’s gracious with shoppers, she constantly praises her team of 20 artisans in Paris by name, deflecting the applause. Because she herself is as excited as the shopper. Mussard is the biggest Hermès superfan of them all.

“This is what Hermès, le grand H Hermès, is to me,” she says, looking around. “It’s the paradox, to be current and timeless.” She is on the verge of tears. “Luxury is not just a big prize. It’s the smile, the surprise, the dreams. And the gift here is that I still have a lot of dreams.” Her misty eyes are now twinkling. Or perhaps it’s the gleam from her mismatched “petit h” earrings. But either way, there’s no doubt that her next “petit h” collection will have even more surprises in store.

Browse highlights from this year’s collection in the slideshow »

The “petit h” collection is available for purchase at the Hermès Madison Ave. boutique (691 Madison Ave.; 212-751-3181) from December 2 to January 7; Hermès Wall Street (15 Broad St.; 212-785-3030) from December 10 to 11, and Hermès Parfumerie (225 Liberty St., No. 125; 212-786-3311) December 16 to 18. For more information, visit hermes.com.

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