It seems as if a heartbeat courses through the Le Crin workshop in Challes, a village in Northwestern France. The rhythmic whooshing sound filling the space comes from the movement of looms that have been weaving horsehair into lustrous fabrics since 1814. Although this is the last outfit of its kind, the pulse isn’t slowing.
Inside, artisans sit at the looms creating textiles. Wearing earplugs to muffle the sound, their focus is total as their hands thread hairs one by one into a shuttle with seeming superhuman rapidity, turning out roughly eight feet of fabric per loom each day. After the raw material arrives from Mongolia, it undergoes a series of meticulous steps including brushing, dying and pressing. The job calls for fast-moving minds as well as dexterous fingers, since counting and tracking the number and color of strands is essential to creating such complex patterns.
The result is a product with glossy texture and depth— qualities Le Crin executives say attracts designers worldwide. “Horsehair is as soft as silk, but extremely resistant, showing little wear after decades of use,” explains workshop manager Nicolas Pioger.
Métaphores, the fabric company producing Le Crin under Hermès’ textile division, sees new horizons for this traditional craft. “We are working with designers to create modern furniture and accessories—anything is possible,” Pioger notes. “What doesn’t change is the expertise and unique savoir faire that goes into producing the material.”