Twenty years ago, Pierre-Alexis Dumas '91 discovered the visual arts program at Brown. Now the chief creative officer of the luxury brand Hermes, Dumas will be speaking tonight at 8 p.m. in the Martinos Auditorium in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts about the creation of his new project Hermes Editeur, which launched in 2008.
This project "tries to bridge arts and craft by inviting contemporary artists to develop a project with Hermes to be reproduced on silk," Dumas wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. In his talk, he will provide an overview of the history of the Hermes silk scarf before addressing the Hermes Editeur series. The series came out of a collaboration with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in 2008 and with the French artist Daniel Buren in 2010.
Dumas began working with Buren not only on the mass marketing of scarves, but also on creating a dialogue between an artist and a business, said Richard Fishman, professor of visual art and director of the Creative Arts Council. The collaboration has led to the creation of more contemporary scarves, said Haruka Aoki '12, who has worked in the fashion industry. "You can hang them up on walls and put them in a frame, and they could be art."
Hermes is a "timeless brand," Aoki added. "It's an icon."
Dumas recently sent Fishman a book of Buren's photographs and said he was coming back to the U.S. His experience with the visual arts program at Brown had significant impact on his life, he wrote, and he wanted to come visit the University. "What inspired the talk was a desire to share that experience. I believe now is the time in my life to start doing that," he wrote.
The talk is "one of the spontaneous things the Creative Arts Council likes to do," Fishman said. Hermes has maintained a sense that "the highest quality is worth striving for" in craft, design and aesthetics, he added.
"Fine craft is disappearing," he said, and Hermes is "a living museum" — one of the only companies that remains willing to support the design of fine, handmade craft and to train people in old world skills. Hermes is a family-owned company that strives to achieve excellence through quality manufacturing, and its impact comes from valuing people before profit, Dumas wrote.
Dumas became creative director of Hermes a few years ago and has kept the Hermes tradition while bringing in a fresh perspective, Aoki said.
"People and organizations need to reinvent themselves," Fishman said, and Dumas "wants Hermes to reinvent itself."
"I believe Hermes can lead the way for a new form of ethical capitalism in the field of art, craft, design and services," Dumas wrote.
The brand has a status connected to it as just a high-end luxury brand, Fishman said, but "Pierre-Alexis represents that it is much more than that."
Fishman said he expects a broad audience of people interested in Hermes' reputation, the craft involved and the "relationships of contemporary artists to Hermes' work on silk."
"I would like to help the audience to look at the world with a different eye. We tend to take our cultural heritage for granted when in fact it needs to be constantly challenged," Dumas wrote.