Play House

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

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - COVER LOOK -

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. ■

ySoli­taire set gan ho ma d an d oo w se o rA Jousters who bat­tled in a game of words n fu ng vi Th ha e re pa we rty ts wa es s filled gu red with ensu char­ac­ters who Her­mès fall/ win­ter 2018

A tr o p ic al s u rf b o ar d

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T h e G a m e sc a rf i n c a s h m e re a n d si lk

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