Meet Pitchaya Pearpit (@pearpit_), the 32-year-old artisticforce behind Hermès and more.
Paris: the city of love and romance. Beauty is everywhere, that’s why the French are on a never-ending quest to find ways to disrupt it. What’s it like to study Image Design there? What’s it like to intern at Hermès, an iconic French maison? How are collections developed? Fun fact: a philosopher is involved. Read the first episode of Pear in Paris now.
|| How It All Began ||
Please share your background.
Since I was young, I often felt nothing in the mass market matched my needs, so I was used to doing my own DIY projects.
That’s why my attitude has always been: “I can create my own things.”
This led me to become curious about designing all sorts of products. So I studied Industrial & Product Design at Chulalongkorn University.
What is Industrial & Product Design?
It’s the smallest scale of architecture. Imagine a funnel and we start from the top where there’s:
Urban Planning: designing cities and infrastructure
Landscape: designing outdoor areas and the environment (focusing on gardens/trees)
Architecture: designing buildings
Interior Design: designing interiors
Industrial & Product Design: designing products
I did all things creative for Home Furnishings at Jim Thompson. I stayed there for 4 years working on branding, marketing materials, collateral design, textile design etc.
Buyers from all over the world usually visit a home furnishing fabrics fair in Paris called “Paris Dèco Off” to order new collections. This is why I got to travel to Paris often. I really liked the city, which is why I applied to do a Master’s there.
Why did you choose to study Image Design? How did you decide so quickly?
I prefer beauty over function! I like products that serve a certain style or visual, but 0% functional [laughs] Just look at my bag, there’s too many holes for it to properly hold things!
As for my quick decision, I was 27, so I thought it was now or never … otherwise I’d be too old for it! [laughs] I felt like I spent my 20’s trying to help other people’s brands, so in my 30’s it would be nice to make my own visions become a reality.
What’s it like to study Image Design?
It’s basically fashion communications because Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) is a fashion school. They teach you how to create art directions and how it’s applied in photography, videos, social media, window displays, and runways.
|| Pearpit in Paris ||
What new perspectives did you gain from working in Paris?
In France, everything is created to be aesthetically pleasing – the architecture, scenery or even the language. It’s the standard to be easy on the eyes. That’s why they try to find quirky, fun or disruptive ideas. It’s like they’re trying to escape classicalism.
Nowadays, I challenge myself to go the extra mile in my work. If something’s pretty, how can I disrupt it to add more depth?
What’s it like to work at a leading maison?
They’re highly detail-oriented and everything is well documented in a systematic way. There are multiple libraries of products, references, photos etc. They’re very much aware of their influence on the fashion world and work hard in every step of the way.
Critical thinking is very important. Everyone’s always asking questions like:
Why is this the way it is?
How can we do better?
How did you become an intern at Hermès?
I stayed in touch with one of the staff who came to do a window display workshop at my university. Through her, I sent in my application and did 3 rounds of interviews. [smiles]
What was your role at Hermès?
I was an Artistic Direction Intern.
At Hermès, there’s a central Artistic Direction department and 16 other métiers e.g. bags, shoes, leather goods etc. Other companies may call them “Business Units”, but Hèrmes prefers the term “métiers” which means something like “crafts.” Our team had only 5 people, including myself!
Our team’s role was to make sure everything is creatively aligned between the 16 métiers in a certain collection.
How is the theme of a collection developed?
The Artistic Director usually comes up with a theme and then bounce off ideas with my team, as well as a philosopher.
How do you develop an art direction?
We don’t just throw out keywords and moodboards to the 16 departments.
The way we work is we discuss the meaning of themes, go on field trips together e.g. watch a movie, see an exhibition etc.
For example our 2022 theme was “lightness” so our artistic director would say:
“Hey, let’s watch this movie. I think this is what lightness is about.”
It would then be our department’s job to organize this movie event where everyone from each department can come and watch it together.
Next, I’d collect all the references related to the theme and a team called Studio Dessin (a subunit under my department) would gather the relevant prints and graphics in one place. So, any of the 16 departments can come and shop around for what they like.
It’s like Master Chef where you’re given a theme and you have to get all the ingredients to create your own version of the dish! [laughs]
After each department comes up with their own interpretation, we review it multiple times to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
One of your interviewers asked you: How is lightness linked to beauty and elegance?
For me, elegance is lightness in form and movement. [smiles] It should appear effortless.
How are marketing campaigns managed for so many different types of products?
Communications is a separate entity from the 16 business units. Once all the products are designed and developed, the communications team is in charge of creating all the marketing visuals.
What’s the next step for you?
I’m still exploring my options, but I will most likely return to Thailand and start something of my own or stay in Paris. [smiles]
|| Up Close & Personal ||
Can you speak French?
Not well enough! [laughs] I can do all the basic things like order food, go shopping, but can’t do business presentations in meetings. I’m a good listener though and can understand most of the conversations around me.
Fun fact: I had to do all my slides in French … online translators were my lifeline. [laughs]
What does “beauty” mean?
I explore this in my book, The Charm of Malfunction. I think about these questions a lot:
How can we find beauty in places where beauty isn’t supposed to be found?
Can we create beauty from broken things?
What will the next-generation definition of beauty be?
After living in the fashion capital of the world, what’s sustainable fashion to you?
In a way, constant creation is a guilty pleasure and I don’t think we will stop creating new things any time soon. However, sustainable fashion to me is creating a personalized, high quality item and being able to re-use it until it completely wears out.
What’s one thing Paris has taught you?
Nature is a luxury. It’s fragile.
Living in Bangkok, we don’t really see the seasons change. However, in Paris, seeing the leaves change each season really puts things into perspective.
We think nature will always be with us, but it isn’t ever-lasting.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
It’s so simple … “just do it.”
Personally, I’m an overthinker so all the thoughts in my head are like a complex web. Before doing something, I used to think about it for so long that I never end up doing it.
You may spend so much time planning, but if you just did it, you might’ve learnt 10 new things that you could’ve never planned for. The faster you do it, the quicker you learn.
It’s about learning that perfection doesn’t exist and knowing when to cut off.
Instagram has been popular for a while. Why did you just start using it in 2020?
I know I’m super late to the game. [laughs]
I took a course workshop about Instagram with French influencer, Sophie Fontanel (@sophiefontanel). It’s called “The Ego Academy” because it believes expressing yourself on Instagram is a way of putting your ego out there to receive praise.
We post things without thinking on a regular basis so the course wanted to make us self-reflect. It made us deeply think about:
What do the things you post represent?
How do you want to present ourselves to the world?
How do you want to express yourself on social media and why?
There’s no right or wrong answer because everyone’s different. The key takeaway is to stop thinking too much about your image. Nobody really cares!
In your own words, what is love?
Love is malfunction. It’s destructive and beautiful at the same time.
I think love comes with a lot of expectations, but ultimately it’s beyond our control.
Sometimes you have to embrace the unexpected and enjoy the journey. Especially as you grow older, unexpected things happen all the time.
Your favourite place in Paris?
The Pinault Collection. The key idea behind this place is disrupting the classics.
The best boulangeries in Paris?
The one nearest to you because it’ll have freshly baked pastries! If you have the chance, do try:
Cedric Grolet Opera (for creative pastry)
Stohrer (it’s the oldest boulangerie in Paris … even Queen Elizabeth orders from here!) Definitely try the Paris-Brest.