Hermès artistic director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski tapped artist Laurence Owen to create the nautical buttons throughout the collection.
“Have we never once thought what if Corto Maltese had been a woman, Lord Jim a Lady? Penelope a man and Odysseus his wife?” asked the collection notes at Hermès’s Spring/Summer 2019 show. Musing on themes of gallant explorers, sailors and sadlers of the past, here realized as women, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski presented a reflection on a well-travelled class who were anything but well-worn.
The collection was presented at the Hippodrome du Longchamp against an interminable mirrored backdrop that reflected Paris’s cloudless autumn sky. Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 23” set an overall sedate, spectral mood, an homage, possibly, to Jean-Daniel Pollet’s experimental 1963 film, Méditerranée. Serene, polished looks were tempered with Vanhee-Cybulski’s signature refined hand and anchored by the supplest of leather and suede in styles so lithe they swung in long skirt shapes and full jackets. There were knotted rope details, sailors’ smocks-turned-parkas, braided nets as woven leather dresses and trousers and basket sacs modelled from feedbags for horses.
One of the smallest details—but one of particular note—was the ship’s wheel buttons made in collaboration with British artist Laurence Owen, who will be opening a show in Paris at galeriepcp on December 6. With exhibitions at Whitechapel and the Serpentine galleries in London, (the latter as one of a group of artists handpicked by Damien Hirst for his In The Darkest Hour There May Be Light collection). After seeing the ceramic frames and pins Owens created in his own practice to hold his painted canvases to the wall, Vanhee-Cybulski invited the artist to collaborate. “Hermès has always been good at symbolism whether it’s a nod to their own design history (originated from the horse and carriage) or aspects from the ‘outside world’, past and present.”
Owen’s paintings and ceramics explore the world of the surreal, a frame work he used to interpret Vanhee-Cybulski’s vision for Hermès with complete access to its archives. “I wanted to maintain and incorporate my interpretation of Hermès’s design philosophy: a sacred symbolism and beauty, function and grace to the activity of wearing clothes,” he explained of the ceramic pieces he created for the collection. “I wanted to referentially link the equestrian with the nautical; the wheel of a carriage with the nautical wheel of a ship and the rope being the interlinking element between these two worlds.”
Whichever way the Hermès woman continues her journey, it’s sure to be one of distinction.