Thread crosser: the unseen side of fabric


Thread crosser: the unseen side of fabric

In Josette Gonnot’s handbag, slipped in amongst all her other treasures, lies a linen tester. Just in case she should come across some Genoa velvet or an exceptional jacquard. She unravels the mysteries of fabrics with the help of this magnifying glass, which she keeps with her like a talisman. For you have to be something of a sleuth to do her job: thread crosser at Hermès.
It was originally a men’s prerogative, with the Lyon silk manufacturers. Knowing fabric quality inside out. Knowing how to interweave weft and warp threads to achieve the desired patterns and effects. Then tracing them in minute detail for the looms. Josette Gonnot is now one of the last custodians in France of these ancient thread-crossing techniques.
She learnt the art in 1984 when she joined the Bucol textile company, which was later acquired by Hermès. The young engineer had just graduated from the École Supérieur des Industries Textiles, a textile college in Lyon. But in less than 10 years everything had changed. If it was not the closure of factories, it was the emergence of software to convert textile designs into thread-crossing instructions. Yet “as soon as you want to do something a little more elaborate, it can't cope,” explains Josette Gonnot. This is where she comes in, helping the computer to decipher the full complexity of the fabric. 
What is the best training for a thread crosser? Analysing as many samples as possible. Equipped with her linen tester, Josette Gonnot ceaselessly gives materials – even the oldest – a voice. Then she “interprets” them with modern techniques, as one might do with music written for instruments that have ceased to exist. This rare expertise has won her the insignia of the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture, which she proudly wears to important functions.
The succession is now assured. Josette Gonnot is currently passing on her know-how to two Hermès employees, one of whom has worked alongside her since 2006. It takes several years to acquire all the in-depth knowledge of materials required of a master weaver.


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Our imprint on…

  • Les femmes et les hommes

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  • The Planet

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  • The communities

    Hermès owns 43 of its 55 manufactures in France and more than 300 stores around the world. Our proximity with suppliers, partners and territories is cultivated in the field. To fertilize, mesh, renovate and be committed… Our role, as an environment-friendly company, is to build sustainable ties.