I was lucky to be able to catch the Hermes Leather Forever Exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum the week before my exams. Although the exhibition is over now, not to worry as I’ve got it covered for you.
“Leather was the first material tamed by Hermes and remains its noblest conquest. Over one hundred and seventy years of fashioning it, of uncompromising innovation, have made leather the saddler’s privileged, personal medium of expression, as fluent as mother tongue. At Hermes, skin is what goes deepest. Our house will never claim to have fully mastered leather, but it will always take the greatest pride in having studied its lessons so thoroughly. It is by handling the finest leathers – chosen, cut, sewn and polished by expert skill – that six generations have learned and passed on the value that inspire Hermes’ dynamism: attachment to quality, perfectionism (even in hidden details), and respect for time, all conjoined with creative verve. I hope visitors will enjoy this playful evocation of the relationship between Hermes and leather, a tale with many twists left to come. Behind the fun and games, though, they may also find some simple, profound answers to that desire for things of lasting worth, a desire that is so powerfully resonant in this new century.” – Hermes for Leather Forever.
An orange box for every object; it appeared at the dawn of the 1920s. First white with a golden edging, then mustard with a brown edging, the box came with the creations that supplemented the house’s trational work as a harness and saddle-maker. Robert Dumas, at the head of the company from 1951 to 1978, had the idea of a colour and a slight grain inspired by natural leather. In the early 1960s, the house definitively adopted this colour and the orange box became a signature.
Savoir-Faire – At Hermes, material reigns supreme. The tanner selects the skins, the cutter “reads” the leather, the saddle-maker/leather-worker fashions the object from start to finish, infuses it with life, emotional presence. He or she sews with a single, waxed linen thread and two needles – saddle stitch – then presses, shines, buffs, polishes. Each piece is signed. It is unique.
The Horse, The First Client – It all started with the horse and for the horse. One hundred and seventy eight years later, as the inspiration for so many Hermes objects, it is lavished with attention. Saddles, all manner of riding equipment – only the best is good enough.
The Spirit of The Nomad – Leaving, going on the road, travelling in every latitude with the necessary and – why not? – the superfluous. Trunks and bags are an invitation to travel.
Discretion and Simplicity – And what if the greatest virtue was the ability to go unnoticed? Getting rid of the superfluous and keeping only he essential? Simplicity as self-evident.
On The Beltway – Where the saddle maker’s art meets contemporary form, belts are in process of constant reinvention. The garments had better keep up.
Variations on Kelly and Birkin – Two bags, two legends. Inspirational, inspired, they permute proportions, materials and colours. Unique and multiple, they are a plural composition covering every shade.
When Dreams Become Reality – To invent what doesn’t exist, you need to dream. At Hermes, the wildest desires are the worthiest challenges. The solution may take some finding.The Prince of Wales came into the store, Faubourg Saint-Honore, to buy a present for Wallis Simpson. At the suggestion of a bottle of perfume or a pair of gloves, the prince replied that he had wheelbarrows of those! The sales assistant suggested a wheelbarrow, so that she could arrange all her perfumes and gloves together.
The Patina of Time – Fine leather never grows old, only gaining in beauty from the touch of its user and character from the passing of time.
Star Bags – Hermes has created five unique bags in honour of Singapore, one per decade, to celebrate the country’s half-century of independence. They are inspired by the Kellydoll (quelle idole!, what an idol!), a bag conceived in 1999 by Jean Louis Dumas, then at the head of the house. A cartoon bag, a miniature doll’s bag, a Kelly-shaped smiley. Hermes saddler-leatherworkers and silversmiths outdid each other in ingenuity so as to perfectly preserve the proportions of the Kelly and to identically reproduce every last detail. Dressed in the most precious skins, some are also adorned with delicate embroidery.