EXCLUSIVE - Senior Hermès family member Pascale Mussard exits Petit h
Senior Hermès family figure Pascale Mussard has left Petit h, the Hermès offspring she created eight years ago that makes objects with crocodile leather and other high-end scraps.
Hermès has replaced her with Godefroy de Virieu, a young designer who has worked with her for many years. Mussard had to leave because Hermès imposed conditions on her that made it impossible for her to stay, one source close to the company has said. Mussard declined to comment. Mussard, 60, left Hermès on Jan. 22 and picked up her things from her office this week.
Hermès confirmed the news after Fashion Network reported her departure.
Hermès declined to say whether Mussard would have a new role at Hermès, leave the company or whether she would remain chairman of the International Fashion and Photography Festival that takes place in Hyères, in the south of France every spring.
Mussard’s forced exit is the first crack in Hermès family unity and company fortress which had been formed to counter an attempt by luxury king Bernard Arnault, LVMH Chairman, to take over the company.
The long-running battle between Hermès and Arnault’s LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, dubbed the “handbag war,” had prompted Hermès family members to regroup and place their stake in a holding that controls Hermès. Mussard is a significant Hermès shareholder. The battle ended in 2014 after Arnault agreed to sell a significant chunk of LVMH's stake in Hermès and redistribute it to the group's shareholders. Groupe Arnault, the family holding company of LVMH, still owns 8.5 percent of Hermès.
“I am deeply touched by the faith Pascale has shown in me by passing me the baton of design,” Virieu said in a statement issued by Hermès. “I will continue to follow the course that Pascale has set with such dedication, talent and high standards: seeking out the expertise required to write new narratives, and to nurture and sustain them in this era.”
Petit h is widely regarded as Hermès’ laboratory of ideas. Its items such as leather bracelets, miniature planes and boats are sold at Hermes’ store on rue de Sèvres in Paris, and twice a year for short periods of time in cities which in the past have included Tokyo, Shanghai, Rome, Geneva and New York. Many objects created by Petit h have already been adopted by what Mussard calls “Grand H,” or “Big H” - parent Hermès.
In 2018, Petit h will take up residence in Lisbon from 4th to 15th September, and in Hong Kong from 22nd November to 15th December, Hermès said. “Godefroy de Virieu has been a partner since the early days; I entrust him with my garden, I know that he will take good care of it and cultivate it with talent,” Pascale Mussard said in the statement.
Mussard, one of Hermès’ most creative minds, is also a spiritual child of late Jean-Louis Dumas, the man who turned Hermès into a global brand and crafted its long-term strategy.
Having worked in several Hermès departments including fabric purchases and communications, Mussard shared the artistic management of Hermès with Jean-Louis Dumas’ son Pierre-Alexis for a few years. But as Pierre-Alexis wished to take over the job alone, Mussard, who is Dumas’ niece, had to move on and launched Petit h in 2010 - the year Jean-Louis Dumas passed away.
The company she founded makes one-of-a-kind objects from unused Hermès supplies such as belt buckles, crystal glasses, cow hides, furs, and rolls and rolls of unused silks, felts and fine fabrics of all kinds. The design studio of Petit h, near Hermès’ main workshops in Pantin, outside of Paris, is an Aladdin’s cave. Mussard boasts the allure of an artist, like her uncle Jean-Louis Dumas. She has rare light aquamarine eyes and often dresses in ample clothes accessorized with oversized jewellery.
After her departure, one of the only senior creative figures left at Hermès of the Jean-Louis Dumas era will be Véronique Nichanian, in charge of Hermès menswear since 1988. Nichanian has a record of longevity close to that of Karl Lagerfeld, at Chanel’s creative helm since 1983.
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