Axel de Beaufort ponders many things, and one of the projects that he’s thinking about right now is a lighthouse. More specifically, building one on an island in an undisclosed part of the world. “We are discussing this with a client right now. He wanted to do something with us and build an observation place on his island. Perhaps a lighthouse,” de Beaufort shares.
The 42-year-old Frenchman is the design director of the Hermes Le Sur-Mesure (literally “made to measure”) atelier. In this department, de Beaufort and his merry band of craftspeople transform clients’ fantastical ideas into reality.
They recently applied the finishing touches to a McLaren Speedtail and a 1922 Voisin Laboratoire. Automobiles are popular requests and de Beaufort and his team have also worked on a Bugatti Chiron and an Aston Martin Lagonda. Before he joined the team in 2013, the department was well-known for its work with bags and what de Beaufort calls “mobility” – cars, planes and boats. But he wanted the world to know that Hermes has the design and engineering know-how to make any dream come true.
That was how the jukebox came up.
“We designed and created an entire jukebox. It was a challenge because we are not an audio company, so we had to understand the engineering constraints before delving into the craftsmanship.”
Besides the jukebox, the team has also designed a foosball table and a skateboard among other unique items. These projects got the attention of the press who communicated to the world that the Sur-Mesure workshop could create anything one’s heart desired.
The first step to a fantasy begins at the Hermes boutique, where clients inform the atelier that they are interested in engaging the Sur-Mesure division. From there, de Beaufort meets with them to understand what they desire before creating the first draft as well as calculating the total cost.
As a former entrepreneur himself, de Beaufort fully understands the business sensibilities of creativity. Enlisting Hermes Sur-Mesure can be a pricey affair, but it can be argued that these one-offs are priceless. De Beaufort embarks on the project only once everyone has agreed.
And unlike many other bespoke divisions that “merely execute”, de Beaufort prides himself on applying that subtle Hermes flair to every project.
“Clients might expect one thing. But sometimes we come up with something just a bit different. We always try to bring something surprising and that is part of the Hermes DNA,” explains de Beaufort.
Of course, this does occasionally mean rejecting projects that are not in the atelier’s wheelhouse, especially if the end-product doesn’t “have anything artistic to say”.
And lest you think de Beaufort is a difficult artist, he doesn’t consider himself nor the atelier as such.
“We are here to create objects that will accompany people on their life journey. In that sense, I consider ourselves more as designers,” he says.
Needless to say, when de Beaufort takes a stroll in the workshop and eyes his craftsmen going about their daily work, he can’t help but feel that there is something special going on in the space located in the suburb of Pantin that’s just outside Paris.
“You know, art is something you usually either like or don’t. It’s a complex, sensitive subject. But when you look into the workshop like I do every day and see the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into the pieces, you would consider it art. It is unique, technical, complex and stunning.”
Art, after all, comes in many forms. And sometimes, it acts as a beacon of light for the world, much like a lighthouse. Even if it’s on a deserted island.