Article about a specific Craftsman


Aug 26, 2006
Just stumbled upon this. I don't recall seeing this posted before.

Here is link for total piece:

Style: Bagging a dream job
By : Sofianni Subki

Watching Franck Lequet at work is a wish come true for any bag enthusiast. He talks to Sofianni Subki about the art of making luxury handbags.

HE makes the world’s most desirable handbags. Yet Franck Lequet is surprisingly humble about his job as a leather craftsman for luxury goods house Hermes.

“There are other lesser known brands that make superior quality handbags,” he says. “These are small shops started by former Hermes employees. We are all part of a tradition that promotes French handicraft.”

Hermes, he explains, puts quality and perfection ahead of everything else. “I can’t say much because I haven’t worked for other companies but I have a feeling that other bigger, more spread-out brands don’t have the same eye for perfection.”

Based in Singapore for the past year, the 39-year-old Parisian was in Kuala Lumpur recently to give a bag-making demonstration to customers of Hermes KL boutique. Much to their delight, he made the Kelly bag, one of Hermes’ most iconic bags.
“Seventy per cent of the work done on our bags is by hand,” he says. “The quality of leather at Hermes is superior.”

Prior to being posted to South East Asia, he was based at the Hermes leather atelier in Paris. A typical day at the workshop starts with four hours of bag-making, then a lunch break, followed by four hours of more bag-making.

“What I do everyday depends on which stage I’m at,” he says. “If I get an order of two or three bags, for example, the first step would be to get the raw materials.”

Working with exotic skins is more challenging than working with cowhide as these are more costly to replace if mistakes are made. “There is an added stress when working with exotic skins like ostrich or crocodile. But we’re not machines, so mistakes are bound to happen,” he says.

Each craftsman is an artist trying to attain perfection. As a result, they’re always pushing the boundaries and in the process, sometimes reach a breaking point and spoil the leather.

An old pro with 15 years of experience, he loves what he does as he gets to work with his hands and see the end result of a product he handled from conception to realisation. He explains that each craftsman has his own trademark, signature and quirk that make his bags unique. Each finished product has a reference number that can be traced back to the craftsman who made it.

Craftsmen don’t have any say when it comes to the colour and shape of the handbags. They can, however, make suggestions relating to the problems they encounter in making them.

Lequet studied at the Abbe Gregoire School before training in-house with Hermes. When he joined the company full-time, he spent two years in the leather repair department before becoming a craftsman.

Initially, he was reluctant to work with leather as he felt it was a girl’s job. “It was my uncle, who worked in Hermes’ leather accessories department, who convinced me to give it a try,” he recalls with a laugh.

It’s a good thing he did. Otherwise, he would ended up as a chef, the first profession he trained for at the age of 15. “It’s a hard job,” he says. “There’s no family life, you have to get up at five in the morning to go to the market, oversee everything, train your staff and if anything should go wrong, you are the one responsible.”

After two years of cooking school as an apprentice chef, he decided he wanted out. “It’s much nicer to work at Hermes but I still like to cook.”

At Hermes, he was part of the team that created the Massai bag that was released in 1997. “The Massai is a simple bag. But all bags, whether simple or complicated, have challenges. The Massai takes five hours to make. The Birkin takes about 14 to 16 hours. Some travelling bags take up to 30 hours.”

His favourite Hermes bag? “It has to be the Bolide,” he says. “It’s reminiscent of the 1930s, a period I like very much.”

On care for handbags, he advises: “The same way you would care for shoes. If your bag is white or pink, then you can use transparent shoe polish. If it’s made of crocodile or ostrich skin, then you should send it back to the shop as it’s valuable and should be handled by an expert.”

Where does he see himself in 10 years? “Well, I’m not fed up with my work and Hermes is a very good organisation. We craftsmen are sent all over the world and life in the workshop is always interesting. We’re definitely pampered at Hermes.”


Aug 26, 2006
Makes me think that the photo of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy must have been with one of the first Massai's if it was only created in '97. Wonder if she was the first customer to get one...