On the Hermès silk road: engraving | Hermes


On the Hermès silk road:

In 2006, following the death of its founder, Établissements Marcel Gandit joined Hermès. This choice represented continuity for the textile engraver from Bourgoin-Jallieu, to whom the scarves owe the precision of their motifs. Since 1948, Gandit artisans have made the printing screens used in the Lyon printing technique, with deconstruction of the artist’s design as a starting point.

From the time of the first wooden screens to that of the latest cutting-edge technology used in its workshops, Gandit has remained in its historic home in Bourgoin-Jallieu, in the north of the department of Isère.

Since 2012, testifying to its integration within the Hermès textile division, its artisans have worked in the same premises as the furnishing fabric producer Créations Métaphores – also part of Holding Textile Hermès – in a vast, modern building where manufacturing of items in silk, hand-rolled hemming and scarf quality control also take place.

Lyon engraving techniques continue to be used as they have been for over 70 years; a skill honoured by Hermès since 1948.

The encounter occurred in Paris, at a moment when the order books were empty for the Bourgoin-Jallieu-based artisan. Émile Hermès and his son-in-law Robert Dumas, designer of the house’s first silk scarf, were looking for that one-in-a-million partner capable of delineating a complicated pattern, Costumes des départements de la Seine inférieure, du Calvados et de l’Orne. Gandit took up the challenge in collaboration with its printers.

Ever since, each new scarf design is entrusted to the engraver. This represents around 20 new designs and 10 reissues each year.

The engraving artist now leans over a large light table, showing the ways taken by a small black and white dog hidden in the labyrinthine streets of a magical city where animals reign. Welcome to Animapolis.

To interpret this design, a product of artist Jan Bajtlik’s imagination, as a scarf for the spring summer 2019 collection, the engraving artist’s stylus threaded its way - for six months - amongst dragons, unicorn, panther and toucans, snaking between famous buildings and luxuriant foliage. The result of this meticulous analysis of the lines and hues of the design is a composition with 39 colours that makes the silk sing.

The position of each shade of the future scarf is recorded in a digital file which, thanks to the technique of photoengraving, makes it possible to create a specific printing screen for it. The arrival of computer technology a decade ago has made the work easier, but has in no way altered the freedom of interpretation of the 30 or so engraving artists. It is they who determine the number of colours required to reproduce the richness of a composition. On average, it takes 25 to 30. But to bring to life Antoine Tzapoff’s Indian Princess Wa’Ko-Ni, a scarf produced in 2012, it was estimated that 46 shades, and therefore the same number of screens, were necessary. A record!
This demonstrates the extent to which engraving is a highly precise operation. Although each of these metal frames covered tightly with mesh lets through just one colour, they must be perfectly aligned to avoid the slightest shift in positioning or leaking of colour.
Marcel Gandit successfully achieved this feat – bringing rigour and precision to even the most complex of scarf patterns – with tracing paper and wooden frames. In the absence of a successor in the family, Jean-Louis Dumas, who was CEO of the Hermès at the time, offered to integrate the house’s long-standing partner into Holding Textile Hermès, while promising to keep its name. This was both a guarantee of continuity and a tribute to the founder.
“You have to really understand what the artist who designed the illustration wanted to say, for we are telling their story. We have to recreate it faithfully.”
Nathalie Chevanier,
engraving artist at Établissements Marcel Gandit for 35 years, winner of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France award in 2015.
  • Hand-rolling and inspection

    The Bourgoin-Jallieu facility is home to other stages of the manufacturing process. Around 20 “hand-rollers” hem the scarves with silk thread, cleverly negotiating the corners and handling the material’s peculiarities.

    The tightness, roundness and uniformity of the rolled hem will be checked a little later during quality control, the final inspection.

    Opened up and folded like a newspaper, felt with the flat of the hand, scrutinised down to its finest details, the square must be judged flawless before it can leave the nest, destined for stores all over the world.

Discover more

  • On the Hermès silk road:
    The Holding Textile Hermès

    Behind these ten or so companies in Rhône-Alpes that nestle and grow under Hermès’ wing lies a wealth of know-how. For the most part unique, this know-how is showcased in the house’s collections and appreciated by customers around the world.
  • On the Hermès silk road:

    Hermès became Ateliers AS’s main client in the 1960s, and its major shareholder in 1987. With its unique production facility, this textile printer based in Pierre-Bénite is more than merely a compulsory stage in manufacturing the scarves. Its artisans have mastered colours since 1948, combining them, mixing them and then applying them to flatbed screens on long rolls of greige-coloured silk.
  • New uses for horsehair in Challes

    Plain or dyed, combined with sisal or given a twist with patterns designed to meet the needs of contemporary decorators and upholsterers, horsehair continues its transformation at Créations Métaphores. The weaving process at ATBC, Holding Textile Hermès’ weaving workshop in the Sarthe department, is still entirely traditional.

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Our imprint on…

  • Les femmes et les hommes

    Hermès employs 15417 men and women, including 5200 craftspeople, who form the first métier of the house. This land of hand changes and hires nonstop. To train, pass on, develop, ensure well-being, health and solidarity… Our ambition is to stimulate the personal growth of everyone involved.
  • The Planet

    Hermès endeavors to exalt, in twenty or so métiers, the most beautiful materials offered by nature. Our artisans’ skillful hands respect leather, silk, fabric, wood, crystal and precious metals. To preserve, optimize, revalue and draw… Our duty is to achieve the sustainable use of these resources.
  • 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.