Crafts: With the opening of a second Hermès leather goods site in Riom, Puy-de-Dôme is moving towards luxury

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Not a sound in the workshop. Or almost. But the small blows of the double-headed hammers sound different depending on the material worked, giving the whole a symphonic air. “The time we spend making our bags allows them to last,” says Emmanuel Pommier, General Manager of the Hermès Leather Goods and Saddlery Craft Division. Enduring over time and in minds, to the point of becoming iconic.

At the Sayat leather goods factory, founded in 2004 and expanded in 2007 following the group’s arrival in Puy-de-Dôme in 1997, 240 artisans work to perpetuate this know-how.

Hermès will install its new leather goods workshop in the old tobacco factory in Riom (Puy-de-Dôme)

15 to 20 hours of work for a bag

In the vast premises bordered by nature, mixing wood and glass, a dozen models of leather bags are made, in particular the “Bolide” – more than a century old – “Constance” or “Birkin”. “We have had partnerships with tanneries for a long time. Some are also part of the house to secure our supplies”, explains Emmanuel Pommier, citing the Annonay and Le Puy sites.

Depending on the model, 15 to 20 hours of work are required from the craftsmen, painstakingly repeating the same gestures. A quest for perfection that can also be found in the space dedicated to leather cutting, for the lambskin linings and calfskin exteriors. “It is the skin that directs us. We are not in control of our placement”, smiles Éric, an employee for sixteen years, detailing precisely the parts, these “3 C’s”: the collar, the heart of the skin and the pillar that each will serve for a part of the bag. .

“I’ve never sewn before, but I love it?! »

Back in one of the two workshops on the Sayat site, the attention to detail is the same as that given to the workspace of Virginie, 36, from Maringues. The latter puts gum arabic on one of Hermés’s latest additions to its “Bolide” range, the “Skate”, planking its underside like a screen-printed skateboard, made of leather, perfectly mimicking the wood of a board. “Everything is handmade, we have no room for error,” smiles Virginie. And she, by way of meticulousness, knows a lot about it, attacking a professional retraining in leather goods, after having worked… in the operating room.

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“Proud to welcome Hermès to Riom”: the installation of a “Manu” leather goods seduces the residents and elected officials of Riom

Later, Arthur, 27, from Vichy, is also in the process of recycling, going from tattoo artist to furrier. “I’ve never sewn before, but I love it?! “, He notes, appreciating this“ precision, painstaking work. We feel a certain pride when we have finished a bag.”

Training for a period of 18 months.

A know-how that leather goods also wants to transmit. “You can go to all our leather goods, the way of working is the same”, says Emmanuel Pommier, recalling that “quality is at the heart of the DNA of our house, as well as sustainability”. Thus, training is organized regularly in the 19 current leather goods stores (there will be 22 in 2024, including Riom) to deal with the development of the company. Every year two promotions of about forty participants are organized, while the collective information is carried out with Pôle Emploi.

When a site like Sayat is complete and the question of growth arises, we suggest creating a second site

For the Riom site, located in the old tobacco factory, 120 employees have already been hired, in addition to 50 from the Sayat site. For les néophytes, une formation de dix-huit mois leur est dispensed understanding une découverte des gestures de base (six mois), la pratique sur un modèle de sac avec un formateur (six mois) et le développement de l’autonomie avec un tuteur (six months). Training, given in Riom, in collaboration with Greta and the Desaix Institute of Saint-Éloy-les-Mines. From November 2022, they will be provided within the Hermès School of Know-how which, as part of its partnership with National Education, will also guarantee the CAP assessments of leather goods for apprentices.

“A dialogue between the head and the hands”

Training “for all ages, profiles, backgrounds”, sums up Emmanuel Pommier. No need to know about leather goods, it’s open to everyone. Most people are in transition.

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However, some fundamentals are necessary. “To practice this profession you need skill, finesse of gesture, care. It is a dialogue between the head and the hands. The job requires memorization, thinking, and organization skills. The rest comes with practice and learning of Hermès’ own techniques, in particular his saddle point, inherited from the equestrian world.

Family house

A strategy that the various current crises – health and economic – and their consequences could have undermined, but Emmanuel Pommier plays the card of serenity. “We are a family company that thinks in the long term and is also anchored in the present. There is a decision-making process over several years. The installation in Riom was decided in 2018, then that of the workshop-relay in 2020 and the laying of the first stone in 2022. When the decisions are made, we implement them. »

With the 250 jobs created by Hermès, Auvergne is “a land of excellence for luxury” according to Laurent Wauquiez

In January 2024, the first employees of the Riom site should invest the renovated and redesigned walls of the old “Manu” by some 7,300 m², discovered yesterday by elected officials, personalities, Hermès group representatives and Puydômois employees. “We already want to be here, in twelve or fifteen months,” confesses Guillaume de Seynes, managing director of the Hermès group’s Upstream Division and holdings, before quoting his uncle, Jean-Louis Dumas, former group leader. 1978 to 2006: “We make beautiful buildings because we make beauty within beauty. With beautiful music, that of know-how.

Developing. Since 2010, Hermès has opened nine leather goods stores in France, bringing the number of saddlery artisans within the group to more than 4,300. Four other manufacturing projects are underway in Louviers (Eure), Tournes-Cliron (Ardennes), L’Isle-d’Espagnac (Charente) and Loupes (Gironde) where recruitment and training continue.

Francois Jaulhac
[email protected]

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