This is Liberté, still in Paris and still with the troublesome french keyboard. While being in Paris I have discovered quite a lot about many of the french luxury brands and the perception of french traditional craftmanship. I'm in no way pretending to know it all about this subject, but I felt like sharing what I discovered in the past few days as I think it may be of interest for you ladies overseas as well. In many ways it's been an eye opener to me; even though this is far from my first visit to the french capital, it's the first time my knowledge has been at a level to allow me to see things more from a critical point of view as a consumer. Now, I just came back from a visit at the atelier of Serge Amoruso in rue Abel; 12 arr. Paris. He's a former employé of Hermès and now runs his own atelier in Paris. It's the only atelier of his in theworld, but he takes orders from everywhere and goes to japan a couple of times a year to aid his customers there. The atelier was very simple and a definetly a leather workshop; there were leathers of galuchat, chevre, cow and crocodile scattered on a bench and some samples og maroquinerie, leather goods, in the atelier. I spoke to him about the leathers and different goods before ordering a little something in chevre. He was very nice and answered all my questions. He made a point of all of the things he used being french , everything from the lation (bronze\hardware, refusing to use italian one hehe) to the stitch and leather. While I was there, one of his assistants came into the store part of the atelier to ask him how to do a certain stitch, so the goods, everything, was made i the back. He also told me how he made a new bucle design on his last plane trip. All in all I would compare it to april in Paris, also a former hermès employee, more info in the great blog by Megs. =) Then I asked him about hermès, which he was glad to speak of as they were his former emplyers. He told me a lot had changed in the past ten years and and that f.ex. the current ceintures, belts, were very different from his. As we know, a lot of the items that are put out are no longer handstitched and some of the prosessing is no longer done in France, none of it in Paris (Pantin is not really in Paris, its one of the notorious Banlieu). However to my knowledge the birkin, kelly qnd HAC( ?) are still done by hand. As the conversation progressed he gave me an impression of a luxury brand in progress much more than and old world french heritage. I'll get back to this later. In the book by Dana thomas, which I'm sure you all know by now, Hermès is given a lot of credit for retaining the feeling of luxe. However, the recent events have made me rethink this and really doubted whether Dana Thomas has her head where it should be when giving them this title and especially when setting them so apart from other brands. The events in question can be summed up shortly as the following: Gloves I bought made in the czech republic and definetly not done by hand like my former gloves I got. Porcelaine claimed to be done by hand by the SA definetly not done by hand except maybe for the finishing. Most of the leather goods now no longer being made traditionally. Outsourcing of perfume (I know this has been going on for a long time). Addition of RTW and "more accessible" (traslating to cheaper and easier and maybe differently made) products. These are all tendencies similar to whats been happening to all ballooning luxury brands, easily comparable to whats has happened to Louis Vuitton, CHanel and simliar. SAs not knowing the products, production being moved, mass production (do you really think H could supply all of its store without mass production) and also being a publicly traded company. I'm not thinking each and every one of these are bad signs, but too much of them and too little of the past savoir faire, it will make the company loose its essence (the products and their qualities) and retain the image (the idea or feeling the brand projects, less to do with actual quality.) I do not think H is at the level of LV or Chanel yet, but I do fear for the future of the company. I Hope theyre not aiming for the position as a "more expensive and little better quality leather mostly made in the same way as other luxe companies". As long as there is a demand for the HANDMADE bags I think theyll keep it up though. Why am I writing this critical article, especially when I just ordered a birkin? Well, that's because I believe in honesty of the companies, knowledgeable SAs and getting what youre paying for. In addition I think Hermès has gotten a lot of praise here on the forum that it surely has deserved, but it does not deserve to be set apart from the other french luxe companies and unconditional praise in the way it has been because it is, in the end, a luxury company trying to lmake a profit of its image more and more and (then) its goods. I love many of the designs of hermes, will probably keep buying, I like how they preserve a lot of the heritage on the upper price level ( like in Pantin, by John Lobb, handmade bags, artists doing the scarves, Hermessence which is not the same thing as the other hermes scents, not just because of the price... Try it and youll understand. etc), but for the "more accessible lines", I think a le pliage (it's by far the most common brand you see around here) might be just as "parisian" and "french" and well made, or a speedy for that matter and still at a much better price. The old world craftmanship still exists, even in Paris, and its about at the same prices as hermes, but it's in general not provided by huge worldwide companies (allthough hermes is doing a good job keeping it up so far) In the end I'd just like for everyone to get what they want, because it goes well with their style, because they like it etc. not because its expensive or because of projected irrational images, because those will wear off pretty quickly. When I see a 50 year old woman having a hard time to walk out of a store because of drooling over a birkin she cannot (it just happened) yet have I feel sorry for her. ___________________________________ I'd also like to include a list of companies that I know for sure preserve a lot of the cultural heritage that Hermes also is in some areas preserving: For porcelaine\china: Try HEREND from hungary. EVERYTHINg is by hand, while being no more expensive than H china. The factory is owned 75 per cent by the workes and the handpainted quality allows endless options. Also try royal copenhagen and Haviland (some designs handpainted) For maroquinerie leather goods: Serge amuroso and April in paris followed by Hermes of course. Clothes: Find a good tailor or designer! Youre sure to get something that fits you perfectly. Or buy Haute Couture! _______ I hope I do not offend anyone, I will keep buying hermes and I hope you will as well. Thannks for reading.