For a limited time, Southern California fans of French luxury brand Hermès can purchase one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, accessories, toys and even pieces of furniture crafted from the atelier's cast-off scraps of leather, silk scarves, porcelain, enamel and hardware, showcased in a pop-up within the brand's South Coast Plaza boutique.
This marks only the second time the Petit h (pronounced "osh" -- the way the French say the letter h) concept shop has popped up in the U.S. since it was launched in 2010, and it is scheduled to open to the public on Friday and close June 29.
A few of the 3,700 one-off items on offer were available for preview at the Schindler House in West Hollywood on Wednesday, and the eclectic collection was enough to awaken your inner child -- and hand it every last credit card in your possession.
Among the highlights: a man-sized origami squirrel bookcase rendered in calfskin in Hermès' signature orange ($112,400), a toy lacquered wood sailboat with a brightly patterned blue silk scarf with pearlescent portholes crafted from handbag hardware ($10,200) and a life-sized dog sculpture stitched together from crocodile and calfskin clutching in its mouth a porcelain plate that doubles as a change tray.
With eco-friendliness, recycling and the like in vogue these days, it would be easy to think of Hermes' upscale up-cycling efforts as trying to ride a trend. But Petit h's artistic director -- and sixth-generation Hermès family member -- Pascale Mussard says the concept has its roots in her own childhood playing in the workshop.
"I was allowed to take things from the atelier," Mussard said. "It was my playground and I would go there after school, which was next door. I was always watching what everyone was doing."
She also said that a life-long "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" attitude was partly influenced by growing up in the years after World War II.
In 2009, Mussard decided to turn her passion into product and worked secretly with a single craftsman to create 100 items from the Hermès atelier's discarded and unused materials to present to the family and to ask for permission to bring the salvage-luxe pieces to retail.
The first offering under the Petit h nameplate (all made by designers and artisans from outside the namesake brand) hit retail in Paris in November 2010, popping up like a caravan of colorful curiosities in other Hermès boutiques around the world on a twice- or thrice-yearly basis ever since, including a stop in New York City in November 2011. (The concept now has a permanent home in the brand's Rue de Sèvres boutique in Paris.)
When asked why she chose South Coast Plaza over any other SoCal location, Mussard smiled. "That is a question I have been asked a lot," she said. "I've wanted to bring Petit h to the Los Angeles area for a very long time but I've known since the beginning that this project is a little bit different and I needed to have people [working with me] that understand it." Mussard said that the South Coast Plaza team presented her with that opportunity.
Nine months ago, she tapped Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena of Escher GuneWardena Architecture to build a backdrop for the traveling wares (Escher described the scenography to us as "frames and cabinets about 100 feet long -- sort of a cabinet of curiosities"), and Friday those cabinet doors will be flung wide open.
Prices range from $85 postcards and $160 silk bracelets on the low end to the aforementioned squirrel bookcase and a silk-scarf-fronted calfskin and crocodile leather chest of drawers ($108,600) on the high end, with eclectic items scattered in between (including a five-footed crystal bowl ($1,925) and a race car-shaped valet tray made from bright pink crocodile hide once destined for a Birkin bag, crafted by Gilles Jonemann.
Petit h concept shop at Hermès South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, Friday to June 29 and online at www.hermes.com through July 5.