Hermès Craftsmanship in “Hearts and Crafts”
I had the privilege of receiving an invitation to preview “Hearts and Crafts,” the Hermès film that delves into the incredible story of the dedicated artisans behind the beloved Hermès products – the same products that well-heeled individuals eagerly await for years to acquire. After watching this remarkable film, Hermès craftsmanship has, for me, transcended from being a great brand to becoming the epitome of what all other brands should aspire to be.
I can already hear a million voices around the world exclaiming, “Mais bien sûr!” (Of course!) in agreement with that last statement.
The Battle for Hermès Craftsmanship
I’m well aware of the ongoing battle between Hermès and Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, who has made multiple attempts to acquire (or as he puts it – become a “friendly” long-term shareholder of) the Hermès family business. “Hearts and Crafts” provides a compelling insight into why Mr. Arnault might desire to acquire such a prestigious company. Simultaneously, the film underscores why Hermès must steadfastly maintain its independence.
No conglomerate can sustain the kind of employee morale that is evidently flourishing within Hermès’ manufacturing team – a morale that serves as the very bedrock of the company’s greatness.
The Human Element of Hermès
Despite Mr. Arnault’s assertions that “LVMH aims to be a supportive long-term shareholder of Hermès and wants to contribute to the preservation of the group’s Frenchness and its family-firm attributes,” history shows that promises from corporations aggressively taking over unwilling family businesses often lead to corporate greed prioritizing profits over heritage.
Mr. Arnault’s track record precedes him in this regard. Throughout his history of aggressive takeovers, including his prized trophy, LVMH, Mr. Arnault has not hesitated to dismiss entire teams that had been loyal to the acquired company for years. These actions, while often profitable, have resulted in the erosion of the fine details in production and packaging that once earned devotion from discerning customers of these family-owned businesses. The meticulous handcraftsmanship honed by artisans who dedicated years to perfecting their craft within the company is replaced by highly automated factories, managed by individuals whose career backgrounds span industries from tire manufacturing to cell phone production.
The Essence of Hermès Craftsmanship Fight
For Hermès, this is simply not the way to conduct business, as emphasized by Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas in the early stages of this battle:
“There is a part of our world that is playing on abundance, on glitz and glamour. And there is another part that is concentrated on refinement, and basically making beautiful objects. We don’t want to be a part of this financial world which is ruining companies and dealing with people like they are goods or raw materials. It’s not a financial fight because we would lose that. It’s a cultural fight.”
Indeed, it is this cultural fight, embodied within the hearts of the Hermès team, that contributed to Hermès’ impressive 37% increase in profits for the first half of 2011. This growth can be unequivocally attributed to the culture fostered within the company and the unwavering commitment of its employees.
The Artisans Behind Hermès Craftsmanship
Throughout the film, we are introduced to several members of the Hermès team, some just beginning their journeys with the company, while others have dedicated decades to its success.
We meet Michaël, a former soprano who now orchestrates a symphony with the Hermès leather he skillfully cuts and crafts; Michel, the jeweler who doubles as an artist, using precious metals as his canvas and the desires of customers for Hermès craftsmanship as his metaphorical palette; Ali, a hearing-impaired polisher whose triumphant spirit in the face of multiple challenges is reflected in the polished metals he lovingly works on; and Delphine, the granddaughter of a silk painter who continues her family’s legacy by designing the vibrant Hermès scarves that add the perfect finishing touch to elegantly dressed individuals.
Passion as the Ultimate Motivator
However, amidst the array of remarkable individuals we encounter on this journey, one unnamed team member’s simple and heartfelt confession stands out, encapsulating the essence of Hermès’ most valuable asset:
“I do my best from start to finish. I’ve learned a lot and continue to do so. Even after 40 years, I’m still learning. I’m 58. I get up every morning. I don’t particularly like having to do it, but I absolutely love going to work. In this workshop, I believe we all share the sentiment that we adore our jobs and strive to do our very best.”
Take a moment to contemplate this statement.
Now, consider those who would rather stay up late than rise early to commence their workday; those who daydream about pursuing careers elsewhere rather than focusing on their current responsibilities; and those who subtly undermine their current employer due to their reluctance to engage fully in their current roles.
And now, contrast these individuals with those who declare, “I truly dislike early mornings, but I cherish going to work,” and reflect on how this sense of purpose permeates their work.
Passion is the most potent motivator. Those who are passionate about their professions painstakingly ensure that every task they undertake is executed with unparalleled precision and dedication. Their employment transcends mere remuneration; it becomes an expression of the pride they take in their craft.
The Power of Employee Value
It is this palpable sense of pride that we, as customers, perceive in every Hermès product. It motivates us to add yet another scarf to our already extensive collection. This same pride lends us a sense of distinction when strangers compliment our Hermès possessions.
For those seeking guidance on how to create a truly valuable brand, let this be your starting point: Make your employees feel valued.
The Path to Customer Trust and Loyalty
This sentiment will be evident in the impeccable craftsmanship of their work, driven by their understanding of the significance of their role in the overall vitality of the company. These exquisite products will, in turn, attract customers who appreciate the artistry and begin to trust in the enduring quality of your entire range — as is the case when witnessing Hermès craftsmanship. Once this trust is established, loyalty ensues – the kind of loyalty that can sustain a brand even in the face of the most challenging economic downturns.
The Enigma of Hermès
As for Mr. Arnault, I can certainly comprehend his desire to acquire Hermès after watching this film. However, I wonder if he truly comprehends that the mystique of Hermès craftsmanship is deeply rooted in the very people he may consider terminating upon acquisition.
While no one can deny the success of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tag Heuer, and others under the LVMH umbrella, it’s essential to acknowledge that there is more than one path to profitability. Hermès has masterfully charted an alternate course, one that prizes its employees and their unwavering commitment above all else.