Whimsical Hermes exhibit feature bamboo clothes poles

Co-deputy artistic director of Hermes Charlotte Macaux Perelman at the exhibition Through The Walls at the Orchard store.
Co-deputy artistic director of Hermes Charlotte Macaux Perelman at the exhibition Through The Walls at the Orchard store.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Home furnishings from luxury French brand Hermes are in the spotlight, thanks to an exhibition designed specially for Singapore

To most, ultra-luxe French brand Hermes is best known for its iconic scarves and Birkin handbags, often touted to be some of the most coveted and expensive accessories in the world.

But there is more to the brand than just its fashion arm.

Till Oct 29, Hermes is putting its home collection in the spotlight with a whimsical exhibition designed specifically for Singapore.

Called Through The Walls, the exhibition is a world-first and was created for the Liat Towers flagship store, which is the only store in the region to carry the full range of the brand's home collection.

According to co-deputy artistic director of Hermes Charlotte Macaux Perelman, who was in town ahead of the opening of the exhibition last Saturday, Singapore proved an ideal location for the show given the brand's long presence in the city.

"Hermes has been in Singapore since the 1970s, but during this time, we have never had a home furnishings event here or really highlighted our home collection," she said. "Given that it is a growing arm of our business, we started thinking about doing an exhibition and brought it from idea to completion in about six months."

The result has been a two-week transformation of the top two levels of the Orchard store, showcasing more than 120 objects from the Hermes home universe, including furniture, lighting, furnishing fabrics, tableware, wallpaper and decorative objects.

Wallpaper was ripped and layered to create a decoupage along the stairwells.
Wallpaper was ripped and layered to create a decoupage along the stairwells.

Also on display are pieces from the brand's newest 2017 collection, Lien d' Hermes, which is broadly inspired by the link - a signature motif of chain link that binds the 180-year-old house to its equestrian origins as a saddle-maker.

Inspired by the anti-architecture style of American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, the exhibition aims to dissect and deconstruct the current retail space and reinvent it into a "home" of sorts, one that will help bring each Hermes object to life.

And though the brand is well-known for its expensive and expertly made items, visitors expecting a pretentious and tight-laced showcase will be surprised by the whimsical and fantastical scenography, created by French concept designers Jean-Christophe Vaillant and Herve Sauvage.

Wallpaper from the collection has been expertly ripped and layered to create a decoupage of sorts along the stairwells of the store. In a corner, a dining table looks like it has been pulled forcefully through a wall, creating a clutter of fine china on one side of the room. On the floor above it, a coffee table is placed to look like it has fallen through the roof.

In yet another section, rows of upholstery and curtain fabrics are hung and clipped onto bamboo poles, perhaps a cheeky nod to the way laundry is dried in Singapore's housing estates.

In the store windows, the signage for Through The Walls is displayed in neon lights, framed by beautiful plates that have been artfully broken in half in the name of artistic expression.

For Ms Perelman, the fantastical curation of the space was done in a way that is humorous and surprising for visitors, something that she says is very much in line with the Hermes ethos.

"As a brand, our pieces are undoubtedly quite traditional and rigorous, but we like to introduce fantasy as well, especially in things like our textiles, wallpaper and tableware," she says. "For us, part of the challenge of this exhibition was transforming the space and pushing our limits to create an exhibition that made visitors feel like they are in a home."

Noises, for example a cat meowing, a door closing, birds' wings flapping, are subtly played throughout the space for an immersive atmosphere.

And though you are in a store, there are visibly interactive elements in the exhibition, such as curtains that really do seem to flap in the wind and a leather mahjong set on a revolving table.

Ultimately, the pieces de resistance are the furnishings and decorative pieces - many of which evidently draw from the long history and traditions of the brand.

There is a cabinet of curiosities, for example, which has been designed specifically for the Hermes scarf aficionado to store and display scarves. And then there is the Aes table from the 2017 collection - a bronze coffee table that is made in a single mould, rendering each piece unique.

For Ms Perelman, it is the whimsy and tradition of fine craftsmanship that she hopes viewers will take away from the exhibition.

"Hermes has been creating home pieces since the 1920s and has such a strong story to tell when it comes to things like colours, creativity and craftsmanship. That is what we are hoping to highlight with this exhibition - it is a chance to bring our Hermes home maison to life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Come home to Hermes'. Print Edition | Subscribe