De­tails Man

As his new fine jew­ellery collection for Her­mès hits, Pierre Hardy tells Jamie Huck­body how he strikes the bal­ance be­tween art and com­merce.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Even if you’re un­fa­mil­iar with the name me Pi Pierre Hardy, chances are his work (or some­thing in­flu­enced by it) is sit­ting in your wardrobe. Those ar­chi­tec­tural Ba­len­ci­aga heels that blurred the bound­aries be­tween shoe and sculp­ture? They were Hardy’s. That tum­bling block pat­tern that cov­ers ev­ery­thing from tote bags to ’80s-retro sneak­ers? Thank you, Pierre. The stealth-wealth baubles from Her­mès? Mais oui! It’s within Hardy’s ca­pac­ity as cre­ative di­rec­tor of women’s and men’s shoes and jew­ellery at Her­mès that we meet at the la­bel’s Paris flag­ship store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. “This myth that Her­mès is a bit up­tight, a bit bor­ing,” says the fifty-some­thing Parisian, “is not the truth.” It’s true that while Christophe Le­maire (cre­ative di­rec­tor of Her­mès wom­enswear since 2010) is qui­etly earnest in his ap­proach (es­pe­cially com­pared with his pre­de­ces­sor, Jean Paul Gaultier), Hardy has proved him­self ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the per­fect bal­ance be­tween clas­sic el­e­gance and dar­ing dis­so­nance. Take his lat­est collection of Haute Bi­jouterie, where he has mag­icked the Her­mès Kelly bag out of gold and di­a­monds, and shrunk it to lip­stick-car­ry­ing pro­por­tions. “They are not very me. But they’re very Her­mès,” ad­mits Hardy, who likens his 14-year ten­ure at the brand to act­ing. “Here, I am like an ac­tor and I play my part as best I can. So when it came to de­sign­ing the sec­ond high jew­ellery collection I was look­ing at the iconic im­age of Her­mès that ev­ery­body knows: and re­ally it’s the bag. It’s a re­cur­rent im­age that has be­come an icon.”

From that collection comes an­other: Niloti­cus (from the Latin name for the Nile crocodile), which is more Hardy­like in its fu­tur­is­tic fierce­ness. Made of flex­i­ble rose gold crocodile scales (“rose gold is warmer in tone and looks bet­ter on the skin”), the range fea­tures a ring, ear­rings, a cuff, and the hero piece – the plas­tron neck­lace – that show­cases Her­mès’s ded­i­ca­tion to crafts­man­ship. Com­posed of 112 scales con­nected db by di­a­mond-stud­ded junc­tions, the col­lar took 10 months of tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment to per­fect. In­di­vid­u­ally asym­met­ric scales are mir­rored and ar­tic­u­lated around Niloti­cus bracelet in rose gold with di­a­monds and pre­cious stones, Her­mès Heels, Pierre Hardy

a cen­tral bar­rette sparkling with di­a­monds, a pur­p­ley-blue io­lite, and green and pink tour­ma­lines. This is Hardy in full, fab­u­lous throt­tle. “That’s why I’m here. That’s what they want from me,” he shares. “There has to be ir­rev­er­ence, other­wise it’s bor­ing. I think to make things come alive you have to in­ject some­thing – vul­gar­ity, some­thing sexy or from the op­po­site vo­cab­u­lary – that dis­turbs the equi­lib­rium; to pro­voke a re­ac­tion.” In fact, when it comes to jew­ellery, his only rule is about how the piece re­lates to the body. “It’s some­thing that you have to feel. It’s about the sen­su­al­ity of the ob­ject. You can love some­thing that is very close to your skin or that is very ar­chi­tec­tural, geo­met­ric, and an­gu­lar. And that’s what I like about work­ing with jew­ellery: it can be in­ti­mate or just dec­o­ra­tive.”

Hardy has a wealth of in­spi­ra­tion from which to cherry-pick, the Her­mès pri­vate mu­seum of trea­sures be­ing lo­cated in the labyrinth of rooms up­stairs. “I re­cently dis­cov­ered an 18th-Century por­trait of a woman rid­ing a horse. It’s painted on a pal­ette, and ev­ery­thing around her is un­done. Only the por­trait is very pre­cise. What I like is that you see the un­fin­ished and the fin­ished at the same time. It’s very touch­ing as you can see how it was made.”

That paint­ing is where his fas­ci­na­tion with horses – the an­i­mal most as­so­ci­ated with the brand whose be­gin­nings can be traced back to 1837 as a har­ness-maker and which still makes eques­trian equip­ment for Olympic rid­ers to­day – be­gins and ends: Hardy is al­ler­gic to our equine friends. “It’s not just horses; it’s cats, dogs, rab­bits ... the lot. I get asthma. I don’t like the coun­try­side but I like the sea­side. If I could, I would live by the sea.”

“I’m from the Mediter­ranean,” adds Hardy, who is of Cor­si­can de­scent, “so I love co­ral, cameos, and in­taglios. But it’s very dif­fi­cult to redo these to­day. I love them be­cause they are old and re­do­ing them al­most de­feats what I love about them. Moder­nity to­day is ex­pressed in di­ver­sity and eclec­ti­cism, cre­at­ing new re­la­tion­ships be­tween things.” It’s ex­actly this de­sign phi­los­o­phy that has made his col­lab­o­ra­tions so un­usual

and which has brought new diehards to the Hardy fan club, which al­ready boasts icons Kate Bos­worth, Char­lotte Gains­bourg, Kate Moss, and Uma Thur­man.

First up was an eight-sea­son deal with US ba­sics chain, Gap (“It was a chance to do some­thing very dif­fer­ent from what I do”) be­fore a col­lab­o­ra­tion with per­fumer Frédéric Malle on a limited-edi­tion range of travel sprays (“I’ve known Frédéric’s work for a long time, and I was in love with his aes­thetic. When he came to me with this project, I was en­chanted.”) and one with make-up guru François Nars for a collection of nail polishes and blush­ers (“A woman’s shoe is like a but­ter­fly – you have to change it as soon as pos­si­ble to keep it fresh. Make-up is in this mode, too.”).

But his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ni­co­las Gh­esqi­uère at Ba­len­ci­aga re­mains his most po­tent. “I think that was spe­cial be­cause it was with Ni­co­las,” says Hardy of his one-time part­ner and friend of 20-plus years. “It’s not fake mod­esty. It was a true col­lab­o­ra­tion. It wouldn’t have hap­pened if I had been by my­self.”

How­ever, there is a price for the suc­cess of de­signs such as those Hardy/ Gh­esqi­uère “Lego” and “col­lage” shoes: by the time pedigree ver­sions trick­led down from run­way to high-street knock-offs, the re­sults were crip­pingly un­com­fort­able and ugly. “Take them off !” he laughs. “It’s ir­ri­tat­ing. It’s rea­son enough to de­sign some­thing dif­fer­ent be­cause it is too hor­ren­dous to see women when they can’t walk in heels.”

So where is the line be­tween ex­per­i­men­tal and vul­gar? “I think vul­gar­ity is when some­thing be­comes too com­mon­place,” he re­sponds. “The re­ally ex­per­i­men­tal can be dar­ing or ugly or dis­turb­ing, but vul­gar­ity is when there is too much of some­thing.”

The one thing he can’t get enough of is draw­ing. “It is the only thing I have loved to do all my life. Give me some­thing to draw and I will be happy,” he re­veals. “Oh, and I would love to sing. To be a mas­sive pop star like Ge­orge Michael, stand­ing in a sta­dium full of people. I would love it.”

Pierre Hardy

Niloti­cus ear­rings in rose gold with di­a­monds and pre­cious stones, Her­mès

Bag, Pierre Hardy

Niloti­cus neck­lace in rose gold with di­a­monds and pre­cious stones, Her­mès

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