Style Expert Lydia Pili Picks her Favourite Pieces from Hermès Handbags

By Sotheby's
For designer and stylist Lydia Pili, fashion has been a life-long passion. After studying at Milan’s Marangoni Institute, she worked as a shoe designer in London and co-founded luxury lifestyle blog What-To-Where, as well as launching the What-to-Where Store near Geneva. Ahead of the Hermès Handbags sale in London on 10 April, we spoke to Lydia about her inspiration, her top fashion tips, and which of the bags in the sale she has her eye on!

When did your passion for collecting bags and accessories first begin?

I was drawn to fashion from a very young age. My fascination led me to pursue a degree in Fashion Design at the Marangoni Institute in Milan. Art always played an important part in my research process when designing collections. The colour palettes, textures and materials used were always a great starting point. One of my design assignments was to create a luxury footwear collection. I can remember seeing Giacometti’s pointing man and thinking wouldn’t that leg shape make a killer heel?

Designing my first shoe forever changed the way I perceived accessories, bags and footwear. The craftsmanship, skill and precision required to create such items are mind-blowing. When I look at a bag or a shoe I straight away think of the love and passion that has gone into it to create its perfect design.

Evelyne III 29 Rouge Casaque Colour in Clemence Leather with Palladium Hardware. Hermès, 2013. Estimate £1,000–1,500. Photo: Sotheby's/Nicola Bushnell.

The lifestyle blog you run with Macha is all about high fashion, luxury brands and travel. What was the driving force behind starting it and how does your community on Instagram shape the content you produce?

When Macha and I first started What-to-Where many years ago, we felt that luxury was defined as having the freedom of choice and time. Many people could relate to the overbearing pressures of society, demanding that they excel in every undertaking. With time, however the value and context of luxury has changed. We think that luxury is driven by emotion, craftsmanship and the human touch, while not forgetting the importance of sustainability. With growing expectations from our Instagram community, we notice that in order to engage, there has to be a story and a sentiment that goes beyond the tangible. They demand transparency!

Jige Elan 29 Violine Colour in Swift Leather in H Tab Closure. Hermès, 2016. Estimate £1,600–2,200. Photo: Sotheby’s/Nicola Bushnell.

You are known for a discerning eye when it comes to style. What does Hermès say to you?

Thank you. Hermès, to me, is a timeless statement that combines tradition and modernity. It is an inventive brand filled with heritage and history. It has a strong identity, inspired by passion, innovation and curiosity. Since it was founded in 1837, Hermes has stayed true to its core values and has seamlessly evolved to meet new consumer demands. Hermès depicts quality, it shows that time coupled with care creates the most incredible results and that despite being amidst the digital era, craftsmanship will never go out of style. Hermès offers more than just a designer creation; it offers a lasting sentiment that goes beyond the product. It embodies all the facets of modern-day luxury.

What is it about the items you’ve chosen that resonates with you?

The three bags that I have chosen to showcase are those I identify with the most. For me the Evelyn bag is “THE” perfect everyday runaround bag. It’s practical with a hands-free strap, it’s very light and extremely comfortable. The design allows for versatility when getting dressed as it can be worn in both a formal and a casual manner.

The jige on the other hand, although categorised as a daytime bag, seems to me like a perfect evening clutch. It is a statement bag, ladylike and strong just like the women who wear it. The iconic H closure and bold stitches are a true representation of the unique craftsmanship of the Hermes house.

Finally, the Kelly simply pulls on my heartstrings. Yes, the design is beautiful but what really draws me in is the story behind it. I was born and grew up in Monaco, so I have always looked up to Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly first held the Kelly bag on the set of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief and that is where she fell in love with it. The stylist, Edith Head, then gifted the bag to Grace, who later used it to shield her pregnancy from paparazzi after her marriage to Prince Rainier III.

These bags have been owned and carried by some of the most iconic figures in fashion, film, music and beyond. Who do you look to for style inspiration?

I get inspiration from all the incredible women and men I meet. I once met the fashion director of a popular magazine in the UK, she was wearing a man’s suit and I thought to myself, how cool are you? Why should I limit myself to women’s clothes? To my boyfriend’s despair, I now raid his cupboard regularly.

Kelly Sellier 28 Calf Box Leather Craie Colour with Gold Hardware. Hermès, 2000. Estimate 3,000–5,000. Photo: Sotheby's/Nicola Bushnell.

What advice would you give someone wanting to develop or perfect their own personal style?

Understanding what you like and what suits you is in my opinion the hardest part. We are constantly being bombarded with hundreds of trends which leave us confused and overwhelmed. My tip is stay true to yourself. Always choose style over trend. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident in your skin and with your style. Build your wardrobe with pieces that you love. Choose staple pieces that have a unique story and that can bring joy to you repeatedly when you wear them.

Accessories, shoes and bags are then a great way to diversify and experiment with your style whether you play with colour, texture or pattern. I personally love vintage or pre-loved pieces, they always make me feel like I’m the last person in the world to own that specific piece which is no longer produced.

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