Luxury: If you thought Hermès was just about high-end handbags, think again

Published on Nov 19, 2022 02:56 AM IST

Their recent exhibition at IF.BE, Mumbai, gives enthusiasts a rare glimpse into the rich history and heritage of the luxury label

The Hermès Heritage cycle of touring exhibitions explores the history of the house founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès with its iconic themes, colours and objects, following in the footsteps of the generations of creators and craftsmen (Fabien Charuau)
The Hermès Heritage cycle of touring exhibitions explores the history of the house founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès with its iconic themes, colours and objects, following in the footsteps of the generations of creators and craftsmen (Fabien Charuau)
ByPriya P

A 19th century boardgame about omnibuses interpreted as a scarf. A bag meant to be used in automobiles resurrected as the Bolide Picnic bag in  spring-summer 2016. A gleaming letter opener that takes its design cue from an airplane rudder.

There are multiple ways to unravel the rich tapestry of history surrounding the house of Hermès, the family-run French luxury label that is the epitome of the artisanal and the artistic. Founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, what started as a saddle-making and coach-building enterprise grew into one of France’s foremost fashion houses.

The intention

Hermès in Motion, a showcase of select pieces, both vintage and avant garde, that is on in Mumbai’s IF.BE until November 20, brings alive Hermès’ decades of design, tradition of innovation, and interplay between the classic and the contemporary.

The Émile Hermès Collection here is dedicated to the iconic pieces and design inspirations that inform the Hermès aesthetic even today
The Émile Hermès Collection here is dedicated to the iconic pieces and design inspirations that inform the Hermès aesthetic even today

Part of the Hermès Heritage cycle of touring exhibitions, it explores the history of the house with its iconic themes, colours and objects, following in the footsteps of the generations of creators and craftsmen.

Even those of you who own or hanker after Hermès products, or have been to Rue Fauborg Saint-Honoré in Paris and been enchanted by the elegant window displays of the original store, may not be aware that the same building also holds a wonderful museum. The Émile Hermès Collection here is dedicated to the iconic pieces and design inspirations that inform the Hermès aesthetic even today.

The exhibits

In Motion brings some of these to Mumbai, helping the aesthete draw parallels between the practical functionality of some and the luxurious lavishness of others. Details are everything in either case. The play of a jacket’s placket here and the work on a handy folding desk there. The gilt-embellished plans proposing a royal carriage in days gone by or a photograph of a travelling cabin trunk from the year 2000, which encased everything from a cigar cellar to a computer!

Not only do the objects inspire fernweh, that certain inexplicable longing for faraway places, but they also make you wish they were yours to bring home. Oozing wonder, whimsy, and wanderlust, the collection is beautifully presented inside the rustic-modern IF.BE or Ice Factory Ballard Estate. A century-old ice factory in Mumbai which has been transformed into a stylish space that hosts everything from eclectic music concerts to esoteric exhibitions, this venue is the perfect foil for a glimpse into the glamorous world of Hermès, where photos of actresses posing effortlessly for fashion magazines in Hermès coats have cosy tete-a-tetes with magnificent mess kits belonging to gentlemen officers.

The innovation

This homage to Hermès also presents a high level of ingenuity. Like a pipe that weathers any storm, a glass carrier that doesn’t spill its contents even when a ship at sea is rolling violently, ways to keep coach drivers atop a carriage warm in winter, a zippy zipper added to an automotive bag—the many ways that design enhanced the experience of travellers down the ages.

A century-old ice factory in Mumbai which has been transformed into a stylish space that hosts everything from eclectic music concerts to esoteric exhibitions
A century-old ice factory in Mumbai which has been transformed into a stylish space that hosts everything from eclectic music concerts to esoteric exhibitions

The experience

A fluid design in intense hues of blue-grey and orange keeps you engrossed as you move from space to space. The beautifully designed audio guide keeps you company on your personal device via a QR code. A few exhibits are brought to life with the clever use of interactive tablets. This is especially fun for kids as well as the inner child in all of us. The inherent playfulness of the French comes through in many ways... the emphasis on picnics, the photograph of Charles-Émile Hermès, son of the founder, riding a wooden rocking horse, and then a handbag-meets-horse that rocks in more ways than one! 

From HT Brunch, November 19, 2022

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