November 2015 – By now, every handbag collector and enthusiast in Singapore must have visited the Leather Forever Hermès Exhibition at least once. In our modern day and industrial age, one sometimes overlooks the complexity of creating such a basic everyday item, like a handbag. It is time we are reminded of the craftsmanship and hours of labor that go into making one. And let’s not forget the incredible creativity of designers who dream up those iconic styles!
In the words of Pierre-Alexis Dumas (Artistic Director of Hermès & the 6th generation of the Maison’s founding family), “Leather was the first material tamed by Hermès and remains its noblest conquest….It is by handling the finest leathers – chosen, cut, sewn and polished with expert skill – the six generations have learned and passed on the values that inspire Hermès’ dynamism: attachment to quality, perfectionism (even in hidden details), and respect for time, all conjoined with creative verve”.
Room 1 & 2 Savoir-Faire
In the Leather Forever workshop, an artisan awaits you to witness his skilled hands at work. This room is all about the workshop, the tools, the skills and the leather.
Photos of the gigantic Kelly bag skeleton with Kelly and Birkin bags (Room 9) displayed within have already surfaced in a number of printed and online publications. Aside from these two icons, the Maison Hermès presents an amazing repertoire of bags and other creations made of leather. In this room, an ensemble of those creations has been arranged in the most delicious display!
Room 4 The Horse, The First Client
“It all started with the horse and for the horse. One hundred and seventy-eight years later, as the inspiration for so many Hermès objects, it is lavished with attention.” (Leather Forever exhibition brochure)
Room 5 The Spirit of the Nomad
This orange room is my favorite room in the entire exhibition. The entire presentation is stunning. A closer look at the motorbike – which resembles the winged Pegasus – reveals that the “wings” are indeed made from layers of togo and swift leather!
On the other end of the room, a leather-bound bicycle with a wicker straw Kelly bag sitting on its back, is parked. This room is indeed a traveller’s dream, regardless of the preferred mode of transport.
Room 6 Discretion and Simplicity
Le Sac Plume is one of my personal favorite Hermès bags. Room 6 perfectly expresses the essence of discretion and beauty of simplicity of the Plume, the Bolide and other more off-the-radar pieces.
“Simple, discreet, it adapts to my mood, my caprices, my humour. With humility, it bends to influences. With simplicity, it follows my movements. Movements of the body, movements of the soul.” (Leather Forever exhibition)
Room 9 Variations of Kelly and Birkin
Of course, this room is not to be missed by any bag enthusiast. An interesting fact to note – amongst the 25 bags on display inside this Kelly skeleton, there are only two birkins. Can you spot them?
Closeby, there is another object which I found, very intriguing. It is a shoe travel case, and within are pairs of dainty boots, heels, flats, loafers…but in what seems like child-like size.
Room 10 When Dreams Become Reality
Who needs a wheelbarrow made of calf leather? Well, the Prince of Wales, that’s who.
“The Prince of Wales came into the store, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, to buy a present for Wallis Simpson. At the suggestion of a bottle of perfume or a pair of gloves, the prince replied that she had wheelbarrows full of those! The sales assistant suggested a wheelbarrow, so that she could arrange all her perfumes and gloves together.” (Leather Forever exhibition brochure)
I also adored the Minature Bags – all made of varying white leather. They were made for the inauguration of the Maison Hermès in Ginza, Japan in 2001. From top to bottom, they are: Drum, Gao, Kelly Padlock, Bolide, Kelly, Dalvy, Plume, Birkin and Toto.
Room 11 The Patina of Time
Displayed in this room are a few very unusual items, some of which were commissioned. Rocking Kelly Horse – a celebration of the horse and the Kelly bag – was created by Leila Menchari as a decorative element for the display window of the Hermès store at 24, Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Spring 2000.
Another particularly fascinating bag was the Apple Case – a special order by M. Rampazzi in 2002. As its name implies, the Apple Case was made for storing an apple; a small knife with handle in horn is attached to its strap.
Room 12 Star Bags
Since 2015 is the Golden Jubilee for Singapore, Hermès created 5 unique Kellydoll bags, one for each decade to celebrate this special occasion.
Leather Forever Hermès Exhibition is at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore from October 25 to December 13, 2015.
Also visit the sister exhibition – Hermès Little Room of Wanders, Singapore at the Asian Civilisation Museum.
All photos were taken by Mrs. King.