Design history: Stretched over carved wooden supports, fine apparel from the four corners of the world is arranged in a sort of brightly-coloured puzzle. A people’s costume reflects its spirit, beliefs and rituals, its customs and traditions, its attitudes and postures. Cloaks, dresses and tunics are unique and universal – like the desire to show ourselves to best effect, in our finest clothes. From north to south, east to west, this finely-balanced design reveals what textiles and techniques around the world have in common. Here and there, amid the linen, silk, cotton and hemp, the batiks, ikats, indigos and embroideries, the multitude of imaginative motifs, we see echoes and similarities. The geometric decorations of South America are remarkably like those adorning the loincloths worn by certain pygmy hunter-gatherers. Timeless, beyond fashion, each piece tells the story of the people who made it.
The legendary French luxury goods house began as a harness workshop in Paris in 1837. By the twenties, Hermès had the patent for the zipper in France, and introduced the first ladies’ bags with zip closures, and in 1937, the first Hermès silk scarves were born (today, a scarf is allegedly sold every twenty seconds). The company expanded into riding gloves, belts, and men’s and women's sportswear, and designed the now-famous travel trunks to meet the needs of the new automobile drivers. The Kelly bag debuted in 1956 after Grace Kelly used a large crocodile handbag to hide her pregnancy. In the seventies, the first women's shoe collection and the first complete men's ready-to-wear collection were introduced. Actress Jane Birkin replaced her old straw purse with a leather Hermès number in 1984, and started the rage that is the Birkin bag. Today the Birkin continues to have the longest waiting list of any luxury accessory. Hermès also has a complete home line, bed and bath linens, furniture, silverware, crystal and porcelain, office accessories, and baby gifts. In 2003, following Martin Margiela, Jean-Paul Gaultier joined the house as women's ready-to-wear designer, putting a high-fashion spin on the label’s equestrian roots. After departing in May 2010, Christophe Lemaire, who is best known for reviving preppy label Lacoste, took the reigns. In June 2004, perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena took a post as the in-house perfumer and launched several scents that have amassed cultish popularity. There are over 240 Hermès boutiques internationally, including a Wall Street location, the North American flagship on Madison Avenue, and in the fall of 2009, the first menswear-only boutique right across the street.