Hermès is touted as one of the pinnacles of French luxury, but how many of you are aware that Thierry Hermès is actually from Germany? He was born in Germany to a French immigrant father. And in 1828, the Hermès family moved to Pont Audemer, in Paris, where Thierry learnt the leather making trade and began crafting harnesses. Back in those days, the primary mode of transport was either riding on horses or in a horse-led carriage. So, most of Thierry’s work comprised of equestrian commodities like saddles.
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Today, however, Hermès is considered the acme of luxury. From their iconic Carré (square) silk scarves to the coveted Birkin bag, everything is made with attention to the minute details and their customer’s comfort and satisfaction in mind. Which speaks to brands history of providing travellers and nomads with the perfect luggage to keep them comfortable during their journey. One could say that despite its opulence and aristocratic idiosyncrasies, Hermès, as a brand, is actually quite whimsical. After all, word on the street is that horses were their first clients.
For a true insight on the history of Hermès, you might want to visit their ongoing exhibition, aptly named Hermès Heritage — In Motion. The exhibition comprise three main collections: the Emile Hermès Collection, Hermès Collection of Creations and their Contemporary Collection.
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The most riveting pieces in the exhibition are the Emile Hermès Collection pieces. They are bits and bobs collected by Emile, the second generation of Hermès, along his travels and at auctions. His collection spans somewhere around 12,000 pieces and are usually kept in the Emile Hermès Museum which sits on top of the brand’s flagship store at Faubourg Saint-Honore street in Paris. The museum is off-limits to the public and only selected Hermès staff are allowed inside. So, unless you’re planning on joining the ranks of their métier anytime soon, this is probably your only chance to take a peak at Emile’s collection. There’s also a few notable pieces in the Hermès Collection of Creations, which are antique Hermès pieces, such as the Hurricane Storm-resistant pipe.
With less than a week left to visit the exhibition, here’s our top must-see pieces, if you’re pressed for time:
The Hermès Haut à Courroies Bag was created in the early 20th century and is one of the luxury brand’s oldest model in their collections. You might be surprised to find out that the purpose of this bag was to store horse rider’s essential equipment—saddle, boots and hat. It’s part of the Émile Hermès’ travels collection.
Here’s Hermès 2018 solution to travelling in style—the Cartouchière cross-body strap and pouches. It’s from their Autumn Winter 2018 collection and is made with Hunter cowhide, Evercolour calfskin and Togo calfskin. It’s part of the Contemporary collections in the exhibition.
The ingenious aspect of this tobacco box is that it has zero open-and-close mechanisms. It’s made with 19th century leather, pewter and copper. The twist-up of the leather opens the box and it automatically collapses when you let go. It’s from Emile Hermès collection.
Leave it to Hermès to create a hurricane storm-resistant pipe for their clients. It was used in 1956 by travellers braving the storm to get to their destination. It’s part of the Hermès Collection of Creations.
At the centre of Hermès, the brand and the founder, is and was innovation. Take this Inversable service of 8 spill-proof glasses for example, it was created for their clients who journeyed by sailing and needed spill-proof glasses in case they fancied a splash of whiskey whilst on board. It’s from Hermès Conservatoire of Creations and features chromium-plated brass and cut glass.
It was originally named the Sac pour l’auto, which means bag for automobiles in French, the Bolide picnic bag was initially designed for Émile-Maurice Hermès’ wife in the early 1920s. It’s touted as the first Hermès bag to incorporate the use of a zipper and was meant to sit snuggly in between the car seats. During its time, the bag was considered a signifier of Hermès’ responsiveness to the changing times. That said, when you look at it today, would you agree that it was also very fashion forward?
This is one of my personal favourites from the exhibition. It’s a picnic cane with mechanisms, early 20th century and is made with wood, steel, brass and iron from the Émile Hermès Collection. The pull-out mechanism contains a set of fork and knife for its user to use at picnics. It’s practical and whimsical all in one.
Made from Gulliver calfskin and palladium-finish brass, the Kelly rocking horse bag from 2004, is probably one of the most unique conflation Hermès’ equestrian heritage and epochal Kelly bag. At the exhibition, you can actually use the touchscreen bar below the item to rock the bag back-and-forth. It’s from the Hermès Conservatoire of Creations.
The 2006 Pippa writing desk is to Hermès today what the Bolide picnic bag from the ’20s was to them then—a symbol of keeping up with the times. In the age where city living comprise smaller apartments with collapsible furniture and ones that has more than one use, this desk is every writer’s dream. Made with ebonies maple and Clémence bullcalf, it reconciles luxury with efficiency in an elegant manner. It’s from Hermès Contemporary collection.
The Hermès Heritage — In Motion exhibition is at Hermès, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers and is open daily from 10.30am to 8pm until Sunday, 19 May. Admission is free.
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