Red riding in the hood with Rouges Hermès

A ceremonial military saddle from the 19th century, made by Hermes   | Photo Credit: Fabien Charuau

When Hermès opened their store at The Chanakya in Delhi two years ago, plans were afoot in the Paris headquarters to start a Hermès Heritage travelling exhibition. It would show the world what the brand was all about: one that has stayed relevant far beyond its harness-crafting origins in 1837. While the first two exhibitions — Harnessing the Roots and In Motion — have been showed abroad, the newest, Rouges Hermès, is in India starting today, following shows in Jakarta and Bangkok.

The exhibit features a white, box-like structure in the mall’s central atrium, with five rooms showcasing 81 pieces, all in various shades of red — which explains the name of the exhibit. The crimson of the brand stemmed from the design of the original store in Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. It later found resonance in luggage boxes in the early 1920s.

The pieces were selected by Ménéhould de Bazelaire du Chatelle, artistic director of cultural patrimony, along with independent curator Bruno Gaudichon and set designer Laurence Fontaine. They largely drew from the collections of the third-generation president of the brand, Émile Hermès, and company archives.

In an email interview, Chatelle, who has been with the brand for 33 years, talks of what went into the exhibition and how they stay relevant.

In what way was the spirit of Émile Hermès retained in every object?

l Among the founding expressions of the Hermès adventure, the colour red has had a special and rich story, with almost 40 hues. We proposed that Bruno Gaudichon visit the Émile Hermès collection of antiques, our archives, the conservatory of vintage creations and our recent collections. With his fresh eyes, we hoped to discover the variety of this colour on different materials like leather, silk, crystal, wood, earth, even straw, paper or mica.

What were the challenges?

l To make drastic choices from the abundance of pieces.

Your pick of some of the most iconic pieces.

l I would draw attention to the 19th century ceremonial military saddle made of fine Morocco leather covered with quilted silk velvet. It was crafted for a general of the French cavalry. A more modest [exhibit] is the wood painting of the Hermès house in the late 19th century, with its red roof — a rather moving memory of the first steps of our company. Then there is an Opera silk gown, inspired by the traditional dress for riding side-saddle. Its deep and vibrant red suggests the curtain that veils the opera stage.

How do you continue to innovate?

l By finding creative possibilities to nourish the designers’ imagination. For instance, the Sac à dépêches, originally designed around 1930 as a classic briefcase for men, was inspired by the late 18th century leather portfolio. We revisited this in 2017 as a lighter variant. The Cabacity bag was imagined in 2015 to offer two bags in one — which can also be carried in two different ways.

Do you have any interesting stories around the exhibition?

l Both in Jakarta and Bangkok, Rouges Hermès had a wonderful reception, as it uncovered some secrets of our maison’s long memory and inspiration. From my own experience, the series of bags and luggage made me realise that red has something to do with the desire for movement. Again, the painting of the Hermès house in Paris is like a beacon from the past, inspiring our creations today.

Till December 8, at The Chanakya, Delhi

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 5:36:50 AM |

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