Hermès Festival des Métiers: Six Days and Seven Interpreters | Blog


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Hermès Festival des Métiers: Six Days and Seven Interpreters

Thank you for all of your help and assistance with the event and helping get through the hurdles. It was a great success overall, and I know the craftsmen felt very at home, so please pass my thanks on to the interpreters for making that happen.”

--Danielle, Communications Associate/PR Events, Hermès Australia



Interpreters for the Hermès Australia’s Festival des Métiers

It’s been an auspicious year for us here at Translationz. In July, we were selected by the Australian Department of Industry to providesimultaneous interpreting for the 35th Australia-Japan High Level Group on Energy and Minerals Consultation held in Brisbane. More recently, we had the great pleasure of providing onsite interpreting for Hermès Australia’s Festival des Métiers, held the first week of October at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

The Festival des Métiers (Festival of Crafts) is a traveling cultural exhibition that provides intimate, behind-the-scenes demonstrations by master artisans from the renowned Hermès studio in France. First held in Seattle in 2011, the exhibition has visited more than 25 cities, including New York, London, Vancouver, San Francisco, Singapore, Shenyang, Beijing, Paris, and most recently Sydney.

Translationz had the privilege of staffing seven French interpreters on-site each day from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to facilitate conversations between the French-speaking craftspeople and the English-speaking spectators and presenters. The event was a great success, thanks in large part to rigorous preparation and a top-notch team of interpreters.

The Exhibition

The Festival des Métiers provides fascinating insights into the longstanding traditions and values of Hermès, whose iconic objects are defined by an uncompromising commitment to the highest standards of quality. For the exhibition, Hermès re-created the working environments of seven of its most talented artisans, who crafted their masterpieces over the course of the six days.

The artisans at the Sydney event included a leather craftsperson, saddle maker, silk painter, silk engraver, tie maker, painter, gem setter, and watchmaker.Observers gathered around each station as the artisans described their signature techniques, the materials they use, and their thoughts about certain products and tools, giving the audience firsthand insight into the world of the master craftsperson.



As most of the French artisans spoke very little English, Translationz interpreters played a vital role in the exhibition by explaining the processes taking place and facilitating the interaction between the public and the artisans, which is one of the most important elements of the Festival des Métiers.

Silk Printers


The audience listened to Kamel’s step-by-step description of the silk-printing process.

The most popular exhibit at the festival was the silk scarf station. With the help of an interpreter, the lead silk artisan, explained the silk-printing process from start to finish. The scarf pictured here contains 18 different colours, requiring 18 different silk screens, each precisely aligned.

All Hermès scarves are hand-printed using multiple silk screens. It takes a studio of 20 freelance designers approximately nine months for a final pattern to be created and approved, followed by another three months of colour testing. In all, the entire process – from design concept to engraving and printing to hand-finishing – takes approximately two years.

Hermès makes all of its scarves in Lyon, France, famous for its silk production and weaving. Kamel explained that once a scarf design has been chosen, it is taken to the silk engraver who will then create the image for printing. The engraved design is photographically transferred onto polyester mesh, with each engraved layer requiring one mesh screen. The screens have different densities depending on what type of material they are printed on, such as silk or cashmere.


Hermès has access to 75,000 colours, with one scarf having a maximum of 50 colours. The scarf pictured above contains 48 colours.


Saddle Maker


French interpreter Willya holding a finished saddle made by saddle artisan Jerome (pictured in background).

Starting with just two pieces of wood on day one of the festival, saddle maker Jerome completed this masterpiece before the end of the six-day exhibition. This saddle will eventually be sold in the Hermès retail store in Paris.

As Willya interpreted to onlookers, Jerome demonstrated some of the most important steps in the process, including meticulously tightening the leather in order to achieve the right curve in the saddle, thoroughly coating the threads with wax prior to threading in order to increase their strength, and using the precise amount of padding to achieve ideal comfort and balance for both rider and horse.

The artisans also discussed the intricacies of the process, from hand-sewing every single stitch on the saddle to using unique one-piece screws as opposed to typical screws made from two pieces welded together. Onlookers had many questions, which were asked in English, translated into and answered in French, and then translated back into English.

All of our interpreters prepared rigorously for this event, carefully reviewing the documentation supplied to us beforehand by
Hermès so that we could familiarise ourselves with the unique terminology and processes used for their items. Much of the vocabulary needed to describe these processes is quite specialized and required advanced research and preparation.




Watchmaker Tom with French interpreter François.


Our French interpreter, François, did a wonderful job explaining to onlookers the complexities of watchmaking, translating the specialized vocabulary of the craft – words such as gears, springs, platinum, and quartz – effortlessly from French into English.

Many of these brilliant time machines measure much more than hours, minutes, and seconds; some Hermès watches, containing a mechanism called a tourbillon, are engineered to track the tides and even the positions of the planets.


Leather Crafter


An iconic Kelly Bag nearing completion.

Another highlight of the festival was watching leather artisan Laurence craft an iconic Kelly Bag, the handmade purse so coveted by purveyors of luxury handbags. She started cutting the leather on day one, with the purse near completion by day five.

The craftsmanship and quality of these bags is impeccable, and our interpreter needed to be well versed in extremely specialized terminology to explain the different types of hardware used, such as palladium, ruthenium, and guilloche, as well as to talk about the different styles: Rigide, a stiffer, more formal style and Souple, a softer style more suitable for everyday use.

Laurence also discussed the bag’s history and the inspiration for its name. Originally designed in 1932 as a travelling bag called the “sac à dépêches,” it was later renamed the “Kelly Bag” in 1956 for the actress Grace Kelly, who used it to shield her baby bump from photographers during her pregnancy.

Hermès Australia’s Festival des Métiers was an incredible experience whose success in many ways hinged on our talented interpreters, who are themselves language artisans. Translationz was honoured to have played a part in such a memorable event – what a wonderful way to spend six days!








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