DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF…HERMÈS
Each year, Hermès chooses a theme, and this year’s theme was perfection: “In the Pursuit of Dreams.” The theme introduced itself immediately with the decor of the Grand Palais. As spectators stepped through the exhibition hall doors, their eyes drifted upward to the enormous jump poles and balloons that whimsically hung from the glass plated ceiling. With the sun streaming through the windows, illuminating the different colors on the decorations, visitors smiled with childlike delight at the spectacle. As they found their seats, they marveled at the unusual and imaginative jumps that had been designed especially for the event. And the presence of the majestic Pegasus statue by the artist Christian Renonciat was perhaps even more fitting this year than others, as the image of a winged horse immediately invoked the celestial mythology, as well as every young horse enthusiast’s dream, of one day riding a flying horse.
Through their interviews and commentary, the competitors themselves shared the significance of the dream theme, often referring to the definition of dream that is synonymous with aspirations, goals, and hope. Many riders reflected on how simply getting to do what they love each day – to be with horses – was a dream come true. Several made remarks to the effect that having the opportunity to compete at the Saut Hermès was also a dream come true. And a few commented that maintaining the dream to compete, or the dream to win, is an essential part of success in the sport, implying that dreaming is not just a fun pastime, or something that happens during sleep, but is an integral part of living one’s best life. It seemed these words were meant to encourage listeners at the Saut Hermès to reflect on their own lives’ dreams, and to ponder how they might move that dream from fanciful thought to an objective goal.
Perhaps the most exciting evocation of the 2019 dream theme was the virtual reality experience available to all attendees. Spectators had the opportunity to climb aboard a “horse” complete with reins and saddle, and were given a VR headset by a Saut Hermès host. The incredible “ride” began with cantering and jumping a short course in the Grand Palais. The feeling of being on the back of the horse was so real several riders got into two-point as they neared the first VR jump. After a handful of jumps, riders were surprised to find that they were actually on a pegasus, when magically the horse underneath them lifted into flight and flew out of the Grand Palais ceiling. After a beautiful flight around the city of Paris, the pegasus landed gracefully on the porch of the Hermès store, and with a shake of his head and flapping of his ears, insinuated that the ride was over. The squeals and giggling from the VR exhibition in the Grand Palais lifted to the glass ceiling and echoed throughout the venue, in turn no doubt lifting the spirits of those who heard – and understood the reason for – the childlike laughter.
EMILE HERMÈS COLLECTION
One dream to fulfill during a trip to Paris for the Saut Hermès is most certainly a visit to the Emile Hermès Collection. The collection is housed just a short walk from the Grand Palais in several rooms of the third story of the Hermès flagship store on Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. After entering the Hermès corporate offices, a few quick right then left then right turns guide guests to a section of the building that has two distinct museum markers: Chilly air conditioning and a lovely musty smell. Though many refer to the collection as a museum, it is not exactly that. In reality, it is a private collection of artifacts whose access is reserved for select Hermès employees and private, invited guests. The guests receiving an invitation to visit the collection are lucky ones indeed!
Menehould de Bazelaire du Chatelle, the artistic director of the Cultural Patrimony of Hermès, is as kind and gracious a host as one could imagine. After a short meet and greet, in which she leans forward to carefully hear and learn each guest’s name, she uses a hefty key chain (an Hermès tassel, of course) to open the door. As it swings open, and the incredible artifacts come into sight, the group struggles not to crowd the door in the excitement created by the opportunity to see the personal retreat and offices of the late Emile Hermès, the third in the original line of custodians, who was responsible for the home from 1902 to 1951.
It is difficult to find the words to convey the significance and magic of the collection. Perhaps Menehould describes it best when she explains that, “It is a secret forest of memories; like a jungle, or an Ali Baba’s cave. It is what we call a museum, but it is not a museum. It is like Paris, a place filled with mysteries in which to get lost; a place to find what you are not looking for.” This is exactly what it feels like to peruse the rooms and lose yourself in the collection. The whimsical nature of some of the pieces, such as the child’s game about horses; and the historical importance of others, such as the ancient saddles from a variety of the world’s cultures, break open the soul of the wanderer and allow dreams of wonder, imagination, and function to flow through to the mind.
Menehould explains this is actually one of the duties of the collection; Hermès designers come to the assembly for inspiration, using past pieces to inspire future works, and to be reminded of the tradition that is behind each Hermès piece. The most exceptional and relevant evidence of that is in the tale of an Hermès scarf design. Menehould walked the group to an old book that sat carefully arranged, turned to a page held noted by a ribbon, and opened it to reveal the sketch of a horse blanket made with geometric shapes. She quietly asked the group, “Does this look familiar to anyone?” Before she could finish her sentence, it was clear the entirety of the group had connected the design to the iconic Hermès scarf. Menehould explained that a designer had come to the collection for inspiration and left with this design in her mind and heart, and transformed it into an iconic Hermès piece – what a dreamy tale!
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