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The Art of Luxury

Luxury French house Hermès brings its travelling exhibition to Melbourne during the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival [VAMFF] this month.


From March 8 to 17, fans of the luxury brand can see artisans at work and share in the conversation [with translators at the ready] as they explain the artistry that goes into each prized creation.


Nine Hermès métiers will meet the public to share their expertise and passion for making bags, watches, gloves, scarves, porcelain, jewellery and more. They will also shed light on the glamour and prestige behind the brand that has wooed everyone from Grace Kelly to Jane Birkin, Lady Gaga to singer Drake [who collects the famous Birkin bags for his future wife].


Hermès at Work explores the history and craftsmanship of the 180-year-old brand – which is still majority owned by the family who started it back in 1837 – and in an Australian first explores the mystique that surrounds the famous label.


The name Hermès comes from the Greek god of messengers. The brand is quintessentially French in all it does – with the majority of its products still manufactured in France by 4,300 craftspeople and 61.4% of its workforce located within the country.


There are more than 315 boutiques worldwide and should you find yourself at its Paris store on rue de Sèvres, you can enjoy a café and bookstore within the boutique.


The great grandson of Èmile Hermès, Guillaume de Seynes is in Melbourne representing the sixth generation of the Hermès family. He became managing director of the business in 1999 and was appointed Executive Vice President in 2006. He is now the Managing Director of Hermès International, in charge of Manufacturing Division and Equity Investments and is Chairman of Comité Colbert, the French luxury association.


De Seynes is a guest of VAMFF and in Australia to discuss how the luxury brand continues to have a stronghold in an industry where many others find it hard to survive.


Hermès’ success comes down to keeping it in the family, remaining true to its French DNA and delivering quality artisan products that continue to lure consumers its way.



Some famous moments for the brand:



It was American actress Grace Kelly who helped make the Kelly bag famous. It was first introduced in 1892 by the luxury brand and took on various prototypes since then, but it was filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock who is credited for bringing the bag to the limelight. In 1954 he asked costume designer Edith Head to buy Hermes accessories for the film To Catch A Thief starring Kelly. Word has it that Kelly fell in love with the bag and when she married Prince Rainier III in 1956, was famously snapped with it in hand. This has since been one of Hermès most popular handbags.



The Birkin bag was named after English-French actress Jane Birkin [who had a decade long love and music partnership with French singer Serge Gainsbourg]. The luxury collectable handbag can vary in price from $11,000 to $300,000 thanks to exotic skins and leather that crank the price up of this hotly sought after handbag – which is popular among celebrities including Victoria Beckham. The bag’s origins are said to have been inspired when Birkin took a flight from London to Paris in 1983 sitting alongside Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas. She placed a straw bag in the luggage compartment in the plane when all of its contents fell out. She complained to Dumas she couldn’t find a decent leather weekend bag she adored – hence the process began for creating one.



Lady Gaga loves handbags – but when it comes to her Hermès collection, she’s all about adding her own customised touches. She took to her black Birkin 10 years ago, adding sharp studs to its exterior for a vamp rock look while on another occasion [a bright white Birkin] and while on the Monster Ball tour in Japan, she scrawled a message to her fans with a sharpie – it said: ‘I love Little Monster, Tokyo love’ scribbled in Japanese Katakana characters.


Hermes at Work is at Melbourne Town Hall, March 8-17. For more information, visit Guillaume de Seynes will speak at the Melbourne Fashion Festival Business Seminar, March 9.


Images: Hermès

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