With a little under two weeks till the close of Hermès petit h in Singapore (Dec 15), the fascinating exhibition still leaves much to be uncovered.

Established by Thierry Hermès’ sixth-generation descendant Pascale Mussard in 2010, petit h’s objective is to give new life to unwanted or forgotten objects and to lead the French maison into a more sustainable future. Hermès main atelier hands petit h excess materials, such as leather and zippers, to be transformed into beautiful, useful objects – think mushroom paperweights, fish-shaped bags and salt shakers.

Titiled “a creation in reverse”, the exhibition consists of two spaces — the first is an organic one with lush greenery, and the second is a futuristic sci-fi setup. Click here to read more about the exhibition. 

Her World tapped into the minds behind it all, creative director Godefroy de Virieu and scenographer Olivia Lee (who was also Her World’s Young Woman Achiever in 2018) to find out their inspirations, thought processes and dreams for the project. 

Here are a few things to know about the exhibition that’s now on at the Hermes store, Liat Towers. And if you have yet to check it out, you really shouldn’t miss it. 

Her World's sustainability issue

1. Petit h is inspired by the country it is exhibiting in

Godefroy: When preparing for a stopover, we first need to be inspired by the country – the culture, the environment and the lifestyle. We want to forge a link between the local designers and the project. Understanding local culture and embedding a sense of geography into petit h is very important for us.

Singapore is a garden city and I know that people are sensitive to the environment. From there, we organised with the designers and scenographers to propose a concept that is linked to the country, in connection with the nature.

 

2. Olivia Lee was tasked to evoke emotions with her scenography

Photo: Hermès

Godefroy: When I first spoke to Olivia during my visit to Singapore, it was incredible how clear she understood petit h. She spoke about the project even better than me! When you meet people who speak to you about Hermès in general or, in this case, of petit h so well, you are very proud of that. Because that means that the thing that people really understand is the identity of the project. Olivia shared some of her past projects and the things she did that were very aligned to the spirit of what petit h is about, which was very surprising and very intriguing.

Olivia is a storyteller, so she knows very well how to move the people who are looking at what is presented. I think she created an emotion, and that’s what we wanted her to do with petit h.

3. Petit h is going against the grain 

Godefroy: Our creations allow us to use materials freely. These materials all come from different Hermès departments: There is silk, leather, metal, crystal, or jewels, etc. In other words, petit h is a concentrated part of Hermès world. We sail against the stream, starting with materials, then using them with a free spirit to seek inspiration, to create, and to give these free materials meaning. So, it is a completely opposite design principle.

All petit h objects can be purchased, interested parties can enquire at the exhibition. (Each object is unique due to the different materials used.)

The Hermès petit h exhibition is at #01-02A Hermès Liat Towers from Nov 22 to Dec 15. Open to the public from 10.30am to 8pm daily. Admission is free. Click here to find out more.

ALSO READ: WHAT IS Hermès’ PETIT H AND WHY YOU NEED TO CHECK IT OUT THIS YEAR END

4. From conceptualisation to show-day, the whole process took nearly 11 months 

Photo: Hermès

Olivia: The process began with a visit to petit h’s workshop in Paris in January, and I remained in contact with petit h right up to the setup of the scenography in November. Hermès was enthusiastic about the space exploration metaphor from the very beginning and gave my studio a lot of freedom to pursue our proposed direction. Godefroy really entrusted me with the project, so we only needed to touch base a few times in the year. He really gave us the green light to stretch our imagination.

Once we had the go ahead from petit h at the start of the year, we spent the next few months fleshing out the details of this multi-faceted project. There are many operational considerations as well as construction details to think about. Scenography is not just about creating beautiful sets. It has to be extremely functional, easy to navigate, and ultimately showcase petit h objects. 

Every prop, podium, undulating landscape, plant, diorama and moving component has been carefully designed to ensure that the products standout. At the same time, the display system has to be flexible as we only confirm the exact pieces coming in Singapore just weeks ahead. 

There are hundreds of pages of technical documentation, material specifications, marquettes, colour, sound direction, storyboards for the interactive light installation and so forth. I had a small team assisting me and a lot of support from our production partners.

5. Olivia Lee is an absolute sci-fi geek, and it shows

Photo: Hermès

Olivia: 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Martian were a big influence on the scenography. I also love video games and I’ve been playing No Man’s Sky as well as Minecraft in my spare time for a few years now.

No Man’s Sky is an openworld space exploration game with over 18 quintillion planets to explore. You survive by mining materials and crafting them into increasingly complex technologies to travel further. Minecraft is similarly structured.

Both are procedural, sandbox games centred on resource management and crafting. You can really see why the connection between space survival and petit h seemed so strong to me.

6. Petit h goes beyond upcycling 

Photo: Hermès

Olivia: I hope that people will come away from the petit h installation appreciating the thought and ingenuity behind petit h designs.

It is a mindful response to production and a respectful approach to goods and materials. If anything, I hope people can be inspired to think twice before discarding something. Instead, I hope they see the potential of overlooked things and find a way to give them a second life. 

I also hope they notice petit h’s parallels with the origin story of Singapore, a city rooted in turning constraints into opportunities. The heavy use of plants in a futuristic settings and the visual language of space habitats are intentional references to our cityscape.

The scenography serves as our little nod to Singapore and one that looks to the future for inspiration rather than our past.

Photo: Hermès

Godefroy: When people look at the objects, I want to see their heads turn, I want them to smile and I want them to question. Because when you see this sort of intense emotion, it also means that it works.

Petit h respects materials and know-how. It is a common sense response to the issue of sustainable development and the preservation of special materials. This value of respect of material has been passed down from generation to generation since the creation of Hermès. Today, Petit h is giving creative solutions to the leftover materials – that is the main point of petit h, to create useful and poetic objects.

All petit h objects can be purchased, interested parties can enquire at the exhibition. (Each object is unique due to the different materials used.)

The Hermès petit h exhibition is at #01-02A Hermès Liat Towers from Nov 22 to Dec 15. Open to the public from 10.30am to 8pm daily. Admission is free. Click here to find out more.

ALSO READ: WHAT IS Hermès’ PETIT H AND WHY YOU NEED TO CHECK IT OUT THIS YEAR END