In this age of rapid consumption and product overload, Hermès stands the test of time. The savoir-faire of the maison founded in Paris by Thierry Hermès as a saddlery maker for French noblemen in 1837 is unparalleled. Since the 1950s, the Duc carriage with a horse has remained the iconic logo.
In the 20th century, accessories, silk scarves and ready to wear, tableware, perfume and watches expanded the core collection turning Hermès into a luxury lifestyle destination. There are now 14 product categories with Bali Barret working as deputy artistic director of the women’s universe, ready to wear overseen by Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski, jewellery and shoes by Pierre Hardy.
It is testament to the interplay of beauty, function and craftsmanship that the designs remain so desirable and sought-after both in store and in the vintage collectors’ world. In the forthcoming specialist auction, Sotheby’s is presenting over 100 lots that span the famed Kelly and Birkin handbags, silk twill scarves, riding boots, enamel and palladium H bracelets and ready to wear.
The subtle nuances of colour and hardware create an extraordinary collection. There is a light green alligator Kelly 29 (1994) with gold plated hardware, that speaks of Spring; a crocodile Birkin 35 (2007) in a gorgeous fuschia hue; a limited edition Kelly 35 in shearling (2005); and a perfect Kelly 32 in white calfbox leather with gold plated hardware (1992) that would be as treasured in one’s wardrobe as a bespoke tuxedo.
While the Kelly and the Birkin remain the heroes, the matriarchs in other words, there are numerous other designs conceived for casual daywear including a the Evelyne, a simple bucket shape with the H logo punched out; the fly weight, foldaway Silkcity sac that features the house’s silk prints; and the Clou de Selle cross-body style in brilliant shades from palest pink to turquoise. Each piece is handmade in the atelier by exceptionally skilled craftsmen using the finest, sustainably sourced leathers.
The silk scarves with hand rolled edges that can be worn in a myriad of ways appear like a gallery of art works. Throughout history, Hermès has commissioned fine artists and illustrators to realise these magical prints such as the Napoleon print by Philip Ledoux (1995), and the history lesson of automotive design found in‘Les Voitures a transformation’ by Francoise de la Perriere (1965). The silk story has given designers ample room for reinterpretation with Jean Paul Gaultier, creating a printed silk trench coat during his tenure as artistic director in 2008.
The bracelets in silver with their distinctive pyramid studs–the collier de chien design was inspired by an original bespoke dog collar–and the Clic-Clac H bracelet in enamel and palladium have, like the handbags and scarves, become a rite of passage in a woman’s life. However for many owners, Hermès is forever.