A LA PLAGE

THE BEACH IS AN AUS­TRALIAN STATE OF MIND, AND HERMÈS CEL­E­BRATES IT THE WAY ONLY A PARISIAN FASH­ION HOUSE COULD.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - CULT - STORY GLYNIS TRAILL-NASH

There are par­ties, and then there are par­ties. The sort that have peo­ple talk­ing for years to come. That con­sider ev­ery­thing from the largest set­ting to the tini­est de­tail. And when French lux­ury house Hermès hosts a fête, it’s a fait ac­com­pli that it’s one of the lat­ter va­ri­ety. And so it was that on a balmy Syd­ney evening in Fe­bru­ary, Hermès Aus­tralia manag­ing di­rec­tor Karin Up­ton Baker per­son­ally wel­comed each of the 630 guests to one of its le­gendary Hermès on the Beach par­ties, this year dubbed On A Sum­mer Day.

Only this year it wasn’t ac­tu­ally on a beach. It was in­side the in­dus­trial con­crete bunker that is in­ner-city Car­riage­works, trans­formed for the oc­ca­sion cour­tesy of 350 tonnes of Syd­ney’s finest sand.

First, guests wound through pas­sage­ways lined in Hermès prints be­fore drop­ping their shoes off at a shoe concierge. If any­one strug­gled with the “Bare­foot” dress­code, the minute shoes were dis­carded ev­ery­one was on an equal play­ing field whether in an evening gown or board­shorts. Soon the lucky in­vi­tees had sand be­tween their toes – even be­fore they could be of­fered a glass of Louis Roed­erer cham­pagne – and with 120 wait staff to hand, no one would go thirsty or hun­gry dur­ing the hours ahead.

For Up­ton Baker, a good party be­gins with a great guest list. “The sec­ond thing is the lo­ca­tion,” she tells WISH. “Car­riage­works was an in­ter­est­ing choice for us, be­cause it’s a space that ev­ery­body knows. So in that sense it was chal­leng­ing to bring ev­ery­one there, but also cre­ate some­thing they didn’t ex­pect to be there.”

Mis­sion ac­com­plished. Along with the sand, there were enor­mous in­flat­able sea­horses bob­bing above the crowd, and seven bea­chobat­ics per­form­ers show­ing off their phys­i­cal prow­ess while guests watched in awe over their piña co­ladas and Ne­gro­nis, re­mind­ing them­selves to go back to that yoga class. They even put in a half­pipe for nine pro­fes­sional skate­board­ers to show off dare­devil feats, the con­crete il­lu­mi­nated by con­stantly chang­ing Hermès print pro­jec­tions.

“The Hermès way of do­ing these large-scale events is re­ally about sur­prise and not be­ing pre­dictable,”

Up­ton Baker says. “That re­ally drives all the cre­ative en­ergy for­ward for us.”

And while the house has events all over the world – purely for ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­poses rather than spruik­ing the lat­est prod­uct – Up­ton-Baker says there is noth­ing like this party in the world.

“It was re­ally our way of bring­ing the cul­ture of Aus­tralia – things that are iconic and mean­ing­ful to Aus­tralians and any­one who lives in Aus­tralia – to some of the key at­tributes and mes­sages of Hermès,” Up­ton Baker says.

“Which, af­ter all, is a ven­er­a­ble Parisian mai­son, and some­times our life here might seem quite dif­fer­ent to life in Paris or the cul­tural em­bed­ding of a brand like Hermès to some­one who’s French. It’s a way of show­ing how Hermès and its cul­ture adapts and fits with cul­tures all over the world, in all places where it is present.

“In Aus­tralia, there’s this cult of the beach, and for me the thing that’s preva­lent through ev­ery beach party is that sense of ut­ter joy and free­dom. You go to a party quite dressed up, take your shoes off and get 350 tonnes of Cronulla white be­tween your toes.”

This ap­proach cer­tainly pays off – as does the in­vest­ment in­volved; in terms of time alone, it took eight days to set up and four days to bump out. Fifty hours of video con­tent was pro­duced to recre­ate beach scenes of sun­rise and sun­set on enor­mous curved screens, which went on to high­light fa­mous beach scenes from cinema his­tory – Burt Lan­caster and Deb­o­rah Kerr in that pas­sion­ate clinch writ large in From Here to Eter­nity, Brooke Shields in Blue La­goon, Ur­sula An­dress in that bikini from Bond film Dr No.

Quite aside from the joy ex­pe­ri­enced by those at­tend­ing, the event had a so­cial me­dia reach of seven mil­lion peo­ple. “It’s about that ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Up­tonBaker. “So when you think back or have that Prous­tian mo­ment of some­thing past, you think about the ex­pe­ri­ence you had with Hermès. It might be spe­cial or crazy, but it’s cer­tainly not for­get­table.”

And to prove they thought of ev­ery­thing that night, just imag­ine the nostal­gia-in­duc­ing mo­ment when, to­wards the end of the party, a tin­kly “Greensleeves” sounded and a Mr Whippy van lit up and went into ac­tion. Af­ter all, what beach trip is com­plete with­out a choc-dipped soft-serve?

Skate­board­ers’ half­pipe, in­flat­able sea­horses, pro­jected sun­rises, a Mr Whippy van and ‘bea­chobat­ics’ at Syd­ney’s Car­riage­works

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