Let loose and have fun was the order of the day at Hermès’ “Let’s Play” theme party. Charmaine Ho travels to Paris for a night of absurdly whimsical games and reflects on the creativity of the brand
There are certain fashion houses that stand for so much more than just the products they place on the shelves.This certainly rings true for Hermès, a brand considered so much an institution of luxury, a mere mention of its name evokes convictions of unparalleled craftsmanship, unwavering sophistication and unquestionable class.
It’s a sentiment that is further underscored by the list of visionary designers who have each left their mark on the Hermès legacy. Martin Margiela’s seven-year stint resulted in a curated wardrobe of iconoclastic yet timeless designs, while Jean Paul Gaultier’s time at the House unleashed an assembly of sensuous leather-clad femme fatales, complete with riding crops to drive the point home. Christophe Lemaire’s precise proportions allowed women to go about their day with effortless sophistication, while current Artistic Director of womenswear, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s conscientious designs have signalled a new chapter of luxurious ease, comfort and glamour for the House.
Then, of course, there is Hermès’ famed propensity for creativity; and its ability to have fun with everything it does—something that is iterated through an impressive reel of viral video campaigns to introduce its new collections, and highly conceptual window displays that seem to take on a life of their own. Let’s not forget the whimsically eclectic range of products under its Petit H label that sees items like leather-lined adhesive tape and triangle rulers transforming the commonplace into desirable objets d’art. The venerable 181-year-old brand is a master at balancing heritage and innovation, traditions and the avant-garde.
If ever these qualities could be forgotten, Hermès has now made them impossible to ignore: For 2018, its annual theme (which acts as a leitmotif that informs the brand’s direction and products for the year) is dedicated entirely to the subject, crowned by an extravagant “Let’s Play” theme party that offers a peek into the wonderfully fertile mind of Hermès.
“Play energises us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities,” contemporary psychologist Stuart Brown once said. His words sum up exactly how I feel as I walk across the gravel courtyard of the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild on a warm June evening. I find myself highly anticipating what the promising night has to offer; a feeling that has undoubtedly resulted from an invitation card that states “Come overdressed” as its dress code.With Hermès encouraging us to embrace our OTT side and have fun breaking the usual codes of dressing, I can’t imagine what the purveyor of understated elegance has in store for us. I am not disappointed.
To the right of the 19th-century historic landmark townhouse is a gilded bureau, complete with a receptionist who insists on announcing the names of arrivals incorrectly on a small, handheld gramophone. Inside, the mansion’s original sphinxes have been replaced with a pair of live
Cleopatra-styled ones that flank the entrance on either side of the staircase in a scene that Tim Burton would approve of.
It is still relatively early and most of the crowd has yet to arrive.Yet, upon entering the main hall, it’s clear that Hermès’ guests have taken the dress code as seriously as the French House has meant them to.While admiring a woman’s delightful carousel hat, a husband and wife in matching sunny side up egg-printed ensembles walk past me to explore the venue, which has been outfitted with a carnival of whimsical games at every turn. Mannequin hands are pinned at various heights along a passageway for a bizarre game of hoops. At its end are velvet curtains that unveil a pair of Las Vegas-type entertainers who sing while quizzing guests on their music trivia. A game of Wheel of Fortune reveals that the only prizes to be won are peanuts, no matter where the arrow lands. In fact, as I soon discover, peanuts are the only prize to be won, regardless of the game.While initially disappointed that I wouldn’t be walking away with any orange boxes tucked under my arm, I soon realise that that is precisely the point of the evening: ng: Play for play’s sake; with no stakes kes involved except the fun to be had. ad. (Well, that’s not entirely true. One ne happy guest went home with the lucky ky draw prize of an Hermès longboard.) )
Throwing all reserve out the window, ow, I down my champagne and head out to try my hand h at various games, including “Fast and Hilarious” (a remote control car track race that I lost to a sexagenarian who played with a childlike grin on his face) and “Sit and Run”, which saw adults reverting to squealing, laughing children at a round of musical chairs.To bring my adrenaline levels back to normal, I head to the courtyard, where an elaborate set-up has been built for an English troupe of verbal jousters that Monty Python fans would appreciate.
Night falls and the light of the summer day finally parts.The main hall starts to fill up with guests and I find myself surrounded by revellers who have kicked off their shoes to dance in delight.And as I look around me, reflecting on the wonderful irreverence of the festivities, I’m reminded of the words of Abraham Maslow, the late psychologist who sagely stated: “Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” It’s obvious that Hermès takes its fun very seriously, and the party has served as a reminder that no one does purposeful play quite as brilliantly as Hermès. ■
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