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Hermes: Leather Forever
SIMON CROMPTON
Tuesday 22nd of May 2012
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This month sees the Leather Forever exhibition of Hermes goodies at the Royal Academy in London. The addition of a white handbag to the statue above should give you an inkling of the attitude to expect. Yep, it's typical Hermes whimsy, all the way.

In the foyer is a Citroen upholstered in beautiful Hermes barenia leather. The first room of the exhibition invites you to stroke as many large leather hides as you possibly can. Rooms are structured as beaches (below), mini-theatre sets (further below) or make the visitor walk through a solid metre of dangling leather strips before being admitted. Tip: do not walk through with an open cappuccino. 

There is some levity to the occassion, however, with that leather-draped initial room inviting the visitor to pick a bag from a set list and see the required parts traced out automatically with a spotlight. And next door an Hermes artisan works on making a bag herself. When we visited it was Claire Marie (bottom photo), the artisan-in-residence at the Bond Street store in London and someone readers of Permanent Style will recognise from posts here and here. On this occasion Claire Marie was being bombarded with questions from Asian customers, as to why and how she inks the edges of the bags, for example. The bag she was working on was the classic Hermes men's bag, the sac a depeches. 

Shown below, those items and some other highlights from the exhibition.



The beach-themed exhibition room.

     

The Citroen 2CV special order, created in 2008, and (right) the Bolide bag, which was first made in 1923 in a luggage format for automobiles. Its name comes from Ettore Bugatti, who had ordered it for the boots of his cars. With its rigid rectangular base, its trapezoid shape and rounded angles, it was the first bag to feature the zip fastener, an American patent that Emile Hermes had discovered in Canada, and for which he had obtained exclusive rights in Europe.

 

The Passe-Guide bag, Wales. Proudly guarding it is a fierce Welsh dragon charm made from a dark-green Box calfskin, embossed in gold. A second Welsh dragon has been embossed discreetly onto the front of this bag, which is finished with gold fittings and a lambskin lining. It was originally a 1975 creation designed by Henri d'Origny. 

 

     

Claire Marie and a winged saddle that was created in 2001 on special order for a Japanese rock band.


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