This weekend sees the closing of the celebrated exhibition Leather Forever by French luxury house Hermès and as promised, before leaving for Italy I paid a visit to Burlington Gardens to explore a material that remains the house’s ‘noblest conquest’.
If a brand was human, leather would be its skin and Hermès would be the top model of them all – charting the history of six generations up to the present Dumas family member Pierre-Alexis, who is artistic director, the story of Hermès is rich in style as well as substance.
Greeted by a specially commissioned leather-lined Citroën 2CV to mark the automobile company’s 60th anniversary in 2008, the message that visitors would be taken on a journey could not have been more clear.
Up the stairs and past the unassuming marble statue (Kelly bag under her arm), the exhibition consists of twelve interactive rooms that have been exquisitely designed by Alexandra Plat and created by Speeg Michel and Sigmasix.
From the library of supple and exotic hides hung from pulley systems to the multimedia installation of the house’s signature orange boxes piled high adjacent to two leather craftsmen from the Pantin studios, surrounded by their customised tools and threads - if the first two rooms were anything to go by this was not to be any old retrospective.
For anyone who receives the Hermès newsletter or visits the World of Hermès, you will already know creativity with a dash of wit are the key ingredients that keep this brand young and fresh. Between the vitrines of leather goods from the house’s archives and private loans – my favourite being the large bespoke artist’s portfolio – one is walking through a horseshow on white sand in one room and through a curtain of leather piping the next; an incredible digital display projects the motions of stitching and hardware on a series of leather bags and clutches, followed by the final products in all their glory set in a wondrous nomadic pop-up tent with jet set trunks and luggage, immersed in that trademark orange light.
Subtle and discreet as is the brand, Leather Forever is an incroyable presentation of how to make an exhibition of one of the world’s most expensive luxury brands – free from brash logos – exciting, as well as accessible. Colour, texture and the perfume that is leather make this an exhibition for the senses and it is evident the same attention to detail curatorially has been directly inspired by the heritage of craft and execution that is simply Hermès.
This very execution par excellence features in the final room where four one-of-a-kind Passe-Guide bags have been created to represent England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Christie’s are currently conducting an online auction that will end on 31st May 2012 with all proceeds donated to the Royal Academy of Arts - visit Christies for more information.
Leather Forever closes this Sunday 27th May 2012 at 6pm
6 Burlington Gardens
Images courtesy of Alexandra Plat