Leather has been the cornerstone of Hermès’s oevre for almost two centuries. Little wonder then, that the French luxury brand is dedicating a whole exhibition to the material, making its long-standing love affair the focal point of the aptly-named ‘Leather Forever’.
Hermès turns 175 this year. And with Britain having much to celebrate – thanks to the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee – debuting ‘Leather Forever’ in London was the brand’s own canny way of joining in on the cultural celebrations.
‘Leather and craft is our essence and our identity’, said Chief Operating Officer Axel Dumas at the opening. Case in point, an on-site workshop – framed by a wall piled high with the brand’s iconic orange boxes – housing craftspeople from the Hermès workshops in Paris, who are on-hand to demonstrate the brand’s intricate leather-working process.
The exhibition has been sensitively designed by Alexandra Plat, who has created an ultimate fantasy world of leather, filled with surreal touches such as a sunset-lit ‘desert’ flanked by a sandy floor - a tented display of travel-related accessories taking centre-stage. A viewing station, equipped with glittering silver opera binoculars, taunts the viewer's line of vision towards a giant neon Kelly bag, filled with different variations of the brand’s iconic bags through the years.
But the most playful message has been saved for last. In a room containing a toy theatre, a sumptuous red and gold stage curtain opens and closes dramatically. Revealed, are four one-of-a-kind versions of the 'Passe-Guide' bag. Paraded one after the other in rotating fashion, the bags are magically swapped as the curtain closes and then opens. Created specially for ‘Leather Forever’, the bags will be auctioned for charity with Christie’s between 14 to 31 May in a time-based online auction.