In Pictures | Hermès Leather Forever
— May 9, 2012 —
In Pictures is a still and moving image gallery for significant works, events and places
Hermès Ireland Passe-Guide handbag Photography by Emilie LindstenCelebrating 175 years, since the house was founded by Thierry Hermès in Paris, Hermès has taken residency at London's Royal Academy, with an exhibition dedicated to the brand's history and dedication to craftmanship. Alongside iconic designs – including the Kelly, Birkin and Constance bags, saddles and silk scarves – and an insight into leather, colourways and production techniques, the comprehensive exhibition incorporates a temporary "studio". Cleverly acknowledging that interactivity is key to a successful exhibition, artisans from the Hermès workshops in Paris will be in situ demonstrating the art of leather working.
And there are further examples of the exhibition's success. Whilst Hermès products possess beauty, quality and a rich history, clever efforts have been made to make the exhibition (entry which is free of charge) interesting and rewarding for its audience. Mounds of orange sand as a backdrop to travel accessories; interactive films projected onto handbags and leather strips hung above a doorway which provide a satisfying olfactory experiences.
Leather Forever also showcases four one-of-a-kind versions of its Passe-Guide handbag, representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which will be auctioned later this month. First created by designer Henri d’Origny in 1975, all four of these unique versions have been re-imagined by Couli Joubert, Hermès’ artistic director of leather. Each bag is then handmade using time-honored techniques in the Hermès workshops in Paris, where one craftsman has made each bag from start to finish. Here, AnOther poses questions to Henri d'Origny and Couli Jobert about their personal Hermès experience.
What is the signature design feature of the Passe Guide handbag?
Henri d'Origny: The coaching-inspired metalwork.
Couli Jobert: The Passe Guide is the result of a happy collaboration between the metal worker and the leather worker. Both sets of craftsmen rise up to the challenges of marrying their skills to create a bag which manages to be curvaceous without being vulgar and lustrous without being flashy.
How would you describe the Passe Guide bag's character?
HO: It's the owner who gives a "personality" to any object.
CJ: Amazing and eccentric – very English!
What is your favourite Hermès piece of all time?
HO: All my saddlery for the last 50 years.
CJ: The Plume bag in Box calfskin for its discreet simplicity.
What's your favourite colour to work with?
HO: I am not a colourist and can only appreciate colours passively.
CJ: I couldn't pick one: it all depends on the material or the leather being used and the object for which it is to be used...
What do you like the most about the Hermès workshop?
HO: It's religious devotion to perfection.
CJ: The perfection of the craftsmanship and the timelessness of the objects that are born there.
If you could sum up your experience at Hermès in one word what would it be?
HO: Integrity and pleasure, a rare combination!
What dream object would you have made by the special workshop?
HO: I have it – my saddles.
CJ: An enchanted suitcase that would travel ahead of me, that I would never have to carry and that would pack and unpack itself.
What design are you working on next?
HO: Some ties and mostly watch projects.
CJ: It's a secret...
If you'd taken another career path what would it have been?
HO: I never thought of my life at Hermès as a "career", but I am ready to start it all over again.
CJ: I would have adored to be an opera singer, but sadly my voice is so bad that no one ever wants to hear me sing!
Could you recommend a good restaurant in Paris?
HO: Are you that hungry?
CJ: Chez Georges, rue du Mail 75002 Paris.
Leather Forever runs until May at 6 Burlington Gardens, London. The online auction runs here from May 14 at 9am (GMT) until May 31 at 5pm (GMT).
Text by Laura Bradley