With the opening of a second Hermès leather goods site in Riom, Puy-de-Dôme is moving upmarket

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Not a sound in the workshop. Or almost. But the small blows of double-headed hammers sound differently depending on the material worked, giving the whole a symphonic feel. “The time spent making our bags allows them to last,” says Emmanuel Pommier, Managing Director of the Hermès Leather Goods and Saddlery Artisan Division. To last in time and minds, to the point of becoming iconic.

At the Sayat leather goods factory, established in 2004 and expanded in 2007 after the group arrived in Puy-de-Dôme in 1997, 240 craftsmen work to perpetuate this know-how.

Hermès will set up its new leather goods workshop in the former 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 handbags are made, in particular the “Bolide” – more than a century old – “Constance” or “Birkin”. “We have had partnerships with tanneries for a very 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 for the craftsmen, repeating the same gestures meticulously. A search for perfection that can also be found in the space dedicated to leather cutting, for the lambskin linings and the 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 the parts with precision, these “3 Cs”: the collar, the heart of the skin and the abutment which will each be used for part of the bag. .

“I had never done sewing before, but I love it?! »

Back in one of the two workshops on the Sayat site, the attention to detail is the same given to the workspace of Virginie, 36, from Maringues. The latter is putting gum arabic on one of Hermés latest additions to its “Bolide” range, the “Skate”, boarding its bottom like a screen-printed skateboard, in fact made of leather, perfectly imitating the wood of a board. “Everything is done by hand, we have no room for error,” smiles Virginie. And by way of meticulousness, she 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 leather goods shop à la “Manu” seduces local residents and elected officials in Riom

Further on, Arthur, 27, from Vichy is also in retraining, going from tattoo artist to leatherworker. “I had never done sewing before, but I love it?! “, he notes, appreciating this” precision, meticulous work. We feel a certain pride when we have finished a bag”.

Training over a period of 18 months

A know-how that leather goods are also keen to pass on. “You can go to all our leather goods, the way of working is the same”, notes Emmanuel Pommier, recalling that “quality is at the heart of our house’s DNA, as is sustainability”. Training is thus regularly organized in the 19 current leather goods shops (there will be 22 in 2024, including that of Riom) in order to cope with the development of the company. Two promotions of around forty participants are set up every year, while collective information is conducted 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 former tobacco factory, 120 employees have already been recruited, in addition to 50 from the Sayat site. For neophytes, an eighteen-month training course is provided to them including a discovery of basic gestures (six months), practice on a bag model with a trainer (six months) and the development of autonomy with a tutor. (six months). Training, provided in Riom, in partnership with Greta and the Desaix high school in 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 the National Education, will also ensure the assessments of the leather goods CAP for apprentices.

“A dialogue between the head and the hands”

Training “for all ages, profiles, backgrounds, sums up Emmanuel Pommier. There is no need to know 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 practicing and learning the techniques specific to Hermès, in particular its saddle stitch, 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 business 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 therefore invest the renovated and redesigned walls of the former “Manu” on some 7,300 m², discovered yesterday by elected officials, personalities, representatives of the Hermès group and Puydômois employees. “We already want to be here, in twelve to fifteen months”, confides Guillaume de Seynes, managing director of the Upstream Division and participations of the Hermès group, before quoting his uncle, Jean-Louis Dumas, former leader of the group. from 1978 to 2006: “We make beautiful buildings because we make beauty in beauty. With beautiful music, that of know-how.

Development. Since 2010, Hermès has opened nine leather goods stores in France, bringing the number of saddler-leather craftsmen 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 are continuing.

Francois Jaulhac
[email protected]

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