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Vanity Fair

Inside the Hermès Workshop That Makes Its Iconic Bags

Despite this staunch adherence to tradition, Hermès will introduce a decidedly modern material this fall: mycelium leather. Developed in collaboration with the San Francisco-based biotech company MycoWorks, this “Fine Mycelium,” coined Sylvania by its creators, derives not from cattle but from mushrooms. Fournier insists that its quality and durability meet the same high standards of traditional leathers and that the material continues Hermès’s long legacy of innovation—it was, after all, Thierry’s grandson Émile-Maurice Hermès who introduced the zipper to handbags in 1922.

“We strongly believe that we should not oppose new technology with what we do with the hands and tradition,” says Fournier. “Both are compatible.” Plus, he adds, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for creation, to play with new materials.” (For now, this particular play is reserved for the Victoria handbag from the autumn/winter 2021 collection, constructed at a workshop of its own.)

If “leather is a confrontation with reality,” as artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas says, then mycelium leather is a confrontation with changing times.

“The recipe for success doesn’t exist, even at Hermès,” says Fournier, who notes that certain styles take years to become a success—the iconic Kelly among them. “The basis for everything is the freedom of creation.”

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