Bringing together objects from Hermès archives and conservatory, the Emile Hermès Collection, and Hermès’ contemporary collections, the ongoing 10-day Hermès Heritage exhibition in Mumbai is a chance to learn more and immerse yourself in the world of the luxury design house. Titled, In Motion, it offers a glimpse into how the Paris-based brand has kept up with the times, as transportation and mobility mediums have changed.
The show is the third in a series of four, with each theme chosen by Hermès artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas. In 2019, the Rouges Hermès show travelled to New Delhi. This time, In Motion is being hosted in a former renovated ice-factory in Mumbai’s Ballard Estate.
Curated by Bruno Gaudichon, curator of La Piscine-Musée d’Art et d’Industrie in Roubaix, the show consists of 72 objects, ranging from the iconic Birkin and Kelly bags (both in modified variations) to the functional (a saddle, stirrups and nesting glass set). While every object is not made by Hermès, each showcases the importance of practicality and comfort — no matter where in the world a traveller is going, Bruno says, “Durability, innovation, and functional aesthetics are values that have guided the creation of Hermès objects since 1837; values that resonate with the key challenges of our time now more than ever.”
What is most striking about the show is the way the chosen objects trace what changing needs of the traveller seeking comfort and luxury. For example, from 1934, you’ll find the Hermès Inversable, a collection of eight spill-proof glasses made for sailing. The steel frame allows for free movement of the glasses, whether there be wind or rain or both. Similarly, there’s a selection of stirrups, collected by Émile Hermès, that are first functional, but also respond to the usage: there’s one with place for a candle for those travelling at night, and another with a heater to keep one warm. Taken together, they are an example of how functional objects are innovated on to serve more than a single purpose.
As transport modes have changed and the horse-drawn carriage gave way to ships and then planes, the exhibit hows how the designers and makers have kept abreast of changing needs, while staying true to the explorer’s spirits that animates the brand’s offerings. So, while custom trunks have been made for everything from a picnic to business travel (a photo showcases a trunk that held a computer, fax machine, speaker and CDs in addition to clothing), what’s fascinating is to draw connections between objects designed by the brand and their antecedents from the past. For example, an Englishman’s trunk, filled with cutlery, crockery and glassware to take on military excursions. While the reason for travel may have changed, the desire to travel in comfort has not.
From the archives
The collections in both the Émile Hermès collection and Hermès Conservatoire of Creations is one that designers and makers within the luxury house have access to. On her opening walkthrough of the show, Marie-Ameliè Tharaud, director of the Conservatory of Creations at Hermès clarified that the archives are not dust covered and untouched, but instead a collection that is used as reference, inspiration and more.
The show opens with a scarf, the first made by the company and with an added digital layer, it brings to life its inspiration, Paris’ first brush with public transport, while the concentric circular design draws from a board game of the time. The scarf and other objects are brought to life digitally, thanks to tablets that showcase use or design details.
Similarly, the show features a Kelly, but one which was made to be displayed in the windows of the 24 Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré store. Attached to a rocking horse frame, its one that users can get to move, via a digital mechanism. The bag harkens back to a photo seen earlier of Charles-Émile Hermès, the founder’s son, seen on a rocking horse.
The Hermès Heritage Exhibition is on until November 20 IF.BE Gallery, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai