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It's Hermès' Universe, We Just Live in It

The French luxury goods house spares no expense for a one-off evening in NYC

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The extravaganza that Hermès threw in downtown Manhattan last night was billed as "All About Women"—with a noticeable bias toward those who buy Hermès. Despite the healthy turnout of fashion editors and Frenchmen in suits, the main contingent was favored clients. They had plenty to keep them entertained.

Round one, in the velvet-draped historic J.P. Morgan headquarters at 23 Wall Street, was a rerun of the house's Autumn/Winter collection défilé. For round two, guests descended into an elaborate fashion carnival comprised of dozens of separate installations, including a county-fair area with pinball and roll-a-ball horse racing; "Dancing Bags," a mod-themed act featuring girls in white jumpsuits; a studio (dubbed "Art of the Scarf") with artists sketching a model on a pedestal; and a fortune-teller attempting to divine whether his chosen subjects had glamorous vacation plans or owned an art gallery.

At a swim-themed tableau, retro bathers executed a coolly choreographed routine to sixties luau music. It had Monique Péan intrigued and stylist Kate Schelter climbing up onto a chair for a better view: "I can't keep up!" Most whimsical of all, perhaps, were the passed trays of plain bacon.

What to make of it all? "Hermès is not as serious as some people might think," suggested the house's artistic director of fine jewelry and shoes, Pierre Hardy, as guests filtered back upstairs for a buffet dinner. "Because it's an old brand, from France, it's supposed to be the epitome of classicism. But it's younger and more dynamic than that."

As such off-season theatrics become a thing among big fashion labels, some of the fun is in seeing how each one approaches it differently. "It's not only about power and marketing. It's more about trying to create a little bit of poetry and charm," offered Christophe Lemaire, Hermès' creative director of womenswear. "That's the beauty of this house."

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