Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Art of Hermès leather

Since starting this blog, I have been dreaming of an excuse to write about another one of my passions, Hermès, which unfortunately has nothing to do with the subject of my blog.

Until now!

On occasion of a second Hermès boutique opening on Via Campo Marzio, there just happens to be a very short-term exhibit dedicated to the leather of Hermès at one of the most stunning exhibition spaces in the city: the Chiostro del Bramante at Santa Maria della Pace, near Piazza Navona. It's a free exhibit that can be easily seen in 30-45 minutes, so it's just the thing for a post-lunch outing! It is only on for one more week (last day is Sunday, 2 October), and believe me, you don't want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime event. You can find out more information about it on the Exhibits on Now page.

Dozens of pieces of dyed but uncut leather greet you as you enter the exhibit. You are allowed to caress them, and each has a tiny tag indicating what type of leather it is.

These orange boxes make my heart beat just a bit too fast.

Part of the exhibit includes a (French) woman who literally creates Hermès wallets and tiny purses before your very eyes. I asked her if she would make something for me...she pretended not to understand. I tried out my rusty French and learned that a small wallet takes about 14 hours to put together (after the leather has been prepared). Hmm... sounds like a new hobby is calling my name!

Have you ever seen so many shades of thread in your entire life?

I don't know about you, but I always travel with an Hermès shoe-suitcase absolutely bursting with Hermès shoes.

I've been looking for that pièce de resistance that will tie my entire wardrobe together! Too bad it wasn't for sale...

Hermès was born as a saddle maker, hence their talent with all types of leather. Saddles led to riding boots which led to shoes; saddlebags led to Kelly bags and Birkin bags; reins and stirrups led to belts, and on and on and on. The scarves were the flowering of the colorful silk jackets that jockeys wear. Where the porcelain china came from is anyone's guess, but it is heavenly.

The only slightly disappointing thing is that, since this is an exhibit dedicated solely to Hermès leather, there was not a single scarf to be seen. When I say I am obsessed with Hermès, what I really mean is that I am obsessed with Hermès scarves. The bags are delicious, the luggage stunning, the belts and accessories quite sophisticated, but the truth is I can take them or leave them, especially with their ridiculous price tags.

But the scarves are a different story. I can partly blame my mother for my obsession with the scarves. She has two (both gifts from French people, appropriately) and when I was growing up she would take them out for special occasions and I would ogle them, fascinated by the detail and color, how each one was like a little world. Twenty years later, a 90 x 90 cm silk twill has become by accessory of choice, and I sometimes plan my entire outfit around one. My obsession has become a bit of a joke amongst my friends, so much that this was my latest birthday cake, made by the brilliant cake designer of Couture Cakes, and a close friend.

© Phil McKinney, all rights reserved.

All photos by author, except last, by Phil McKinney.

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  1. I really enjoyed this one. Didn't know about how their scarves evolved. I would love another. Perhaps for my birthday. How many do you have now? Love, Mom

  2. Well, you do have an important birthday coming up!!!! If you're a good girl, perhaps you will get it...


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