Saturday, February 13, 2016

Collection SS2016: Cheval Surprise Remix

You must certainly remember the original Cheval Surprise of 2004, by the talented Dimitri Rybaltchenko.  The design had such a strong effect on me, I could not resist the temptation to acquire the scarf (as a gavroche, in 45x45cm) frame it and display it prominently in my living room.

This year, a variation on this theme is sure to enchant us at least as much as back in 2004.

Horses and riders emerge from a cloudburst of colour.  Dimitri Rybaltchenko leads us on a visual adventure of his own making. Lost at first in the formless splashes of yellow, orange, magenta, blue and green, we gradually discern the hidden silhouettes. It all depends (quite literally) on the viewer’s perspective.  In Rybaltchenko’s own words, ‘disparate, apparently meaningless elements are connected, and take on meaning, a life of their own.’  His design echoes the thought processes that lead to the birth of a new idea: ‘we must let ourselves dream, let our gaze float free. 

A few splashes of colour are all it takes to break the silence.’  Here, silence gives way to the thunder of hooves, the cadenced breath of galloping horses. There’s a moment of calm, in the figures of the iconic horse, carriage and groom, symbols of the house of Hermès (based on a painting by Alfred de Dreux). 

And Carle Vernet and Jonny Audy, equestrian painters of the 18th and 19h centuries, are along for the ride, too.  In the purest spirit of the house of Hermès, classic, foundational motifs take on new, thoroughly modern forms.  Originally conceived in monochrome, and re-cast now in vivid colour, Cheval surprise remix continues to captivate the imagination.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Collection SS2016: Au Pays des Oiseaux Fleurs

From our beloved Christine Henry we have a new design that's set to mesmerize the admirer by inviting her to follow the many chapters of the story and possibly get lost in the story.

Like an allegory of life itself, Au Pays des oiseaux fleurs tells of the interconnections between fauna and flora. The delicate drawing transports us to a dreamlike land of trees, flowers and birds, mingling in rich profusion. 

No two trees are the same, each unfurls scrolling arabesques, decorative forms and flowers, an open invitation to the multicoloured birds snapping twigs to build their nests among the branches, feeding on blossoms, transporting fertile seeds and pollens. 

Plants and animals blend and blur in this composition celebrating the extraordinary richness of life on Earth – the intelligence, beauty and power of nature. No single thing can thrive, it seems to say, without all the rest.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Collection SS2016: Interferences d'Antonio Asis

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1932, Antonio Asis is the Hermes guest artist for the spring/summer season 2016.  He trained at the National School of Fine Arts in his native city, where he won numerous prizes before moving to Paris in 1956, like many other Latin American artists, including Jesús-Rafael Soto or Julio Le Parc. 
Invariably abstract, his work quickly embraced Op Art, exploring the purely optical illusion of movement, in contrast to Kinetic art, which sought to incorporate real, physical motion. Antonio Asis’s Op Art compositions respond to the viewers shifting gaze: their geometric forms and dancing colours seem quite literally to come to life.  The silk carré becomes a vibrant, living surface.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Collection SS2016: L'Instruction du Roy

"The King’s Instruction in the Exercise of Horse Riding" was the title given to a 17th-century work by Antoine de Pluvinel, equerry to Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre.  Pluvinel understood that when training a horse, "kindness is more effective than severity".  Under his care, the animal becomes a responsive, sentient being. 

Pluvinel founded an academy in Paris and wrote his manual (illustrated with superb etchings by Crispin de Pas) in the form of an interview with the young King.   A series of plates at the end of the volume illustrates the particular types of bit recommended for use by the author. 

Henri d’Origny’s design pairs the steel mouthpieces with braided fabric reins: the twists and curves form a pattern offset by scrolling fronds, echoing the tastes and fashions of Pluvinel’s day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Collection SS2016: Fantaisies Indiennes

In the centre of this carré, an exuberant Tree of Life extends its branches laden with sumptuous blossoms and fruit, drawn with great delicacy.  A symbol of the life force and eternal rebirth in many world religions, the tree is framed here by a lively frieze of people and animals, inspired by the frescos and wall paintings of Shekharvati in north-western Rajasthan, in India, where their distinctive, naïf style decorates the homes of wealthy Marwari merchants. 

Loïc Dubigeon’s design presents mythological scenes such as the legend of Dhola Maru (named for its two heroes – lovers who elope riding a camel), together with richly caparisoned elephants, and the British colonialists’ preferred modes of transport: the bicycle, motor-car and train.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Collection SS2016: Tatouage Jungle Love

A naturalist working for the National Natural History Museum in Paris, Robert Dallet was incomparably skilled in magnifying the inimitable coat, forceful lines and strength of the big cats; strength in the most accurate way.  He designed a picture of love for us: that brief and passionate interlude when two solitary creatures come together to give life. In a few months time, two leopard cubs, maybe three, will be born in the hollow of a tree or rock. 

But for the time being, the future parents watchfully examine and size each other up in an amorous display, observed by the curious and entertained gaze of the jungle’s frailest inhabitants.  Taking advantage of the two leopards’ complicity, the paradise flycatcher flutters above them, a bit too closely perhaps.  More cautiously, other neighbours keep their distance in the foliage, among the delicate and perfumed orchids: a continuously astonished bush baby, butterflies with strange names like cymothoe or little monarch and multicolor birds.  The bee-eater, taking its name from its favourite food, sunbirds with their bright plumage, plant nectar lovers, and those little accurately named lovebirds who always live in pair, snuggled together like two chilly children.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Collection SS2016: Panthera Pardus

Throughout 2016, Hermès is paying tribute to the incomparable animal painter Robert Dallet, a naturalist and artist who devoted his life to the study and protection of animals.  In particular, Dallet declared a special fascination, and boundless admiration, for the big cats, producing over a hundred plates cataloging every known species, including Panthera pardus, seen here.  Today, the studies form part of the heritage collection of the house of Hermès. Dallet’s assured hand and confident drawing are especially striking – the fruit of days and weeks spent observing and sketching from life. The animal seems to emerge from out of the silk square. 

The panther is the embodiment of the force of Nature itself; its gaze, fur and posture are astonishingly lifelike.  The Indo-Chinese panther, or panthera pardus delacouri, lives a solitary life in the depths of the region’s great tropical forests, where it is threatened by deforestation and hunting.  The name indicates a male panther, first studied in the early 1930s.  

Panthera pardus is the 2016 solidarity carré: a portion of revenues from the sale of the scarf will be donated to the not-for-profit foundation Panthera, established by Thomas S. Kaplan in 2006, to safeguard the big cats.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Collection SS2016: Dragonflies

One of my most beloved artists commissioned by the Maison to mesmerize us, Leigh Cooke is proposing in 2016 a poetic, lighter-than-light touch in a vintage format, design that conjures a flutter of dragonflies and damselflies, those most ethereal, fairy-like insects.  The latter bear a close resemblance to their cousins, but their bodies are narrower, and they carry their wings folded upright above them when they alight on a surface.  

The artist’s studio stands beside a pond surrounded by flowers and reeds.  

The endless ballet of these fragile Odonota (their scientific name) was the inspiration for this composition, rippling gently like the water’s surface.  

Leigh Cooke began the watercolour after a dragonfly flew right into his studio.  While he was at work on the picture, another – the biggest he has ever seen – settled on his windowsill as if to watch.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Collection SS2016: La Marche du Zambeze


I thought I'd start right away with the first in Hermes' new spring/summer 2016 scarf collection - a new design that's meant to mesmerize you with a refreshing design, and which is sporting very fresh colours.

At the centre of La Marche du Zambeze, a majestic elephant symbolises family and power.  Around him are gathered the creatures of his kingdom, the great river lands of the Zambezi: giraffe, zebra, leopard and crocodile trace its course from the savannah to the delta marshes.  The river’s flora is silhouetted all around the composition, off-setting the rich patterns of python and crocodile skin. 

Ardmore is a collective of Zulu, Zimbabwean and Sotho artisan potters, founded by Fée Halsted in 1985, in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. 

Today, the group numbers seventy members: creative artists dedicated to reinventing traditional styles, united by their recognition of what our common humanity and fraternity truly mean – namely that we each exist thanks to others. This carré marks the beginning of a new collaboration between the collective, and the house of Hermès.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Collection 2015: La Maison des Carrés

To ring in the new year, I thought of a design to celebrate one more aspect of the Maison.

La Maison des Carrés is the name of Hermes' online boutique, dedicated to the iconic Hermès silk square.

To celebrate the concept, La Maison des Carrés is a delightful, colourful, humorous account of the creation of an Hermès silk square, from its initial inspiration to the point of sale, with a peek at the colouring and printing processes along the way.  Here, too, are the house museum and its cabinet of curiosities (the inspiration for so many designs), the creative studio – that vital incubator of talent – and last but not least the actors who escort each carré on its great adventure, together with the hubs and nerve centres where each scarf’s destiny is spun and woven, before being tied at the neck, shoulders, waist or head of whoever chooses to buy it and take it home.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Collection FW2015: Flots, Fleurs et Frontaux

Émile Hermès began collecting at the age of twelve.  The resulting ‘cabinet of curiosities’ reflects the open, inquiring mind of this passionate, amateur art lover.  Émile was a tireless walker, and a regular at the sale rooms, endlessly on the look-out for strange, unexpected pieces to add to those he had already amassed.

The equestrian world holds a special place: Virginie Jamin’s neatly-ordered scarf takes inspiration from the models in a 19th-century catalogue.  Brow-bands (the bridle strap positioned across the horse’s forehead) decorated with medallions are arranged in a labyrinth of straight lines, while ribbon rosettes, presented as prizes at equestrian competitions, are displayed amid a scattering of flowers.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Collection FW2015: L'Arbre du vent

L’Arbre du vent is a tribute to the Huichol people of Mexico’s western Sierra Madre – also known as the Wixáritari – and their polytheistic religion, worshipping the divinity inherent in every aspect of the natural world.

At its centre, the scarf depicts the eye of god, the protector, surrounded by the four elements, marking the four corners of the Huichol world: 

1. Mother Water, the origin of life, Tatei Haramara; 

2. Earth, the soul of the world, Tatei Yurianaka, with two hummingbirds fluttering above, symbolising the souls of traditional shamans; 

3. Grandfather Fire, Tatehuari; and,

4. Air, Kieiri, the Wind Tree. 

Mexican artist Montserrat Gonzalez-Lugo has taken inspiration from traditional bead embroideries and threaded wool pictures to depict the essence of Huichol spirituality.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Collection FW2015: Brides de Gala Brodé

Brides de gala is without doubt the house's most celebrated carré.  Its subject?  The equestrian world, of course.  The flamboyantly decorative bridles, and the perfection of the composition, capture the essence of the timeless Hermès spirit. 

Its title, short and to the point, has the same, direct impact as the dazzling show bridles themselves, evoking the clink of buckles and chains to the rhythmic, majestic beat of the horses' hooves.  Leïla Menchari reinvented this classic design, having it reworked by the nimble fingers of her master embroiderers.  The sharp, detailed image took on a more sensual, velvety feel.  Framed as an element in one of Leïla's unforgettable window displays, the piece was subsequently hung in the office of Hermès president Jean-Louis Dumas, to whom she presented it, as a souvenir.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Collection FW2015: Bouquets Sellier

A curious quartet!  Straps, curb chains, harnesses and stirrups are gathered into bright bouquets, like cut flowers.  Tassles hang like clustered bluebells, leather straps are tied into bows, spurs resemble starry daisies, bits are looped like flower garlands, and riding crops become calyxes.  Horses' heads, their manes rippling and ringletted, burst from the sheaves like wild blooms.  Arranged on horse blankets, folded to show their front and reverse sides, the four compositions are a perfect metamorphosis of fabrics, leather and metal parts.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Collection FW2015: Cheval Fusion

Metal in fusion. Mercury, perhaps? The substance is sleek, glossy, somehow alive… and supremely seductive.  Impossible not to think of another carré – Vif argent, created a few seasons ago by the same designer, Dimitri Rybaltchenko – at the sight of this design.  Mercury is unique: a metal in a naturally liquid state, sensitive to the slightest pressure, so that it scatters in a multitude of fluid, free-flowing baubles.

Cheval fusion: the protean liquid suggests an array of potential forms.  Bits, buckles and stirrups coalesce, and a proud steed is born.  The magic of metamorphosis!  Could this be the lair of Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge and volcanoes, inventor of magical objects?  Could this outburst of metal hold a clue to the secret art of alchemy?  Remember – Mercury is also a planet, named for a Roman god, whose Greek ancestor bore the name… Hermes.