London's "Leather Forever" Exhibit Celebrates 175 Years of Hermès
May 10, 2012 - by Lester Brathwaite
While New Yorkers will be clamoring over the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations," Londoners can feast their eyes on the 175-year history of Hermès at "Leather Forever."
Running from May 8-27 at the Royal Academy of Art, the exhibit is befittingly opulent for the luxury brand founded in 1837 by French saddle and harness-maker, Thierry Hermès.
Among "Leather Forever"'s highlights is a giant neon Kelly bag sculpture chronicling the many variations of the house's iconic Kelly and Birkin bags over the years (above) and a room dedicated to some of the house's bespoke creations such as a wheelbarrow for Wallis Simpson commissioned by her husband the Duke of Windsor.
The exhibit also includes four one-of-a-kind Hermès Passe-Guide handbags that will be auctioned off online to benefit the Royal Academy of Art.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and revelatory facets of "Leather Forever" is a room featuring two skilled artisans from one of Hermès' 32 workshops creating actual Hermès pieces.
These artisans are not only highly trained in leathercraft but also undergo an additional four years of training to learn the Hermès method, which as Hermès' UK and Ireland managing director Thierry Outin explains, is why there are such long waiting lists for the Birkin and the Kelly:
"People ask us, is it a strategy? But no, it simply takes so long to train our artisans. Plus, we like to keep our workshops 'human-sized'. We like to know the names of every artisan, that to us is very important." [Telegraph]