Hermès MuseumPast inspires present
THE HORSE, AT HERMÈS, IS THE GENESIS OF EVERYTHING AND WHILE HE DIVERSIFIED, EMILE ALSO UNDERSTOOD THAT THE BRAND COULD KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES WITHOUT ABANDONING ITS ORIGINS.
For all their external beauty, Parisian buildings often conceal even greater wonders within. Peer behind those uniform Haussmannian doors and you’ll discover grandiose interiors, secret gardens and courtyards, and lives long forgotten — all of it hidden from the street. Thankfully many have been preserved, just as generations before had intended them to be. This is certainly true of number 24, rue Faubourg Saint Honoré — the site of the Hermès flagship store since 1880. While the expansive lower floors are open to the public, offering an array of luxury items for clients to peruse and pursue, the upper floors tell another story. Up several flights of stairs, and through a maze of corridors, you’ll discover a breathtaking time capsule, known simply as the Emile Hermès Collection.
This was originally the domain of the late Emile Hermès, the third in the original line of custodians, who presided over the stately maison from 1902 to 1951. What was once his office and his personal collection has over time been expanded into a private museum — something of a shrine to his legacy. It was Emile, after all, who transformed a prestige harness business into a formidable lifestyle brand, by introducing not just saddlery, but also luggage, handbags, and ready-to-wear, to name but a few. Despite the significance of Henry Ford’s factory line during his era, Emile (who paid a visit to the Ford factory) made a very pertinent decision to preserve Hermès’s handmade touch. “He was alone in his understanding that progress was not for everyone… he understood that there would be a loss of quality,” says Ménéhould de Bazelaire, Director of Cultural Patrimony of Hermès. “Our golden rule today is that one craftsman starts from the beginning to end, which is exactly the opposite of what Ford was doing.”
Emile’s profound respect for the past fuelled his passion as a collector; and the Museum hosts a stockpile of souvenirs from his many escapades and travels — a catalogue of his many fascinations, which covered books, art, travel paraphernalia and, of course, anything related to the horse. The horse, at Hermès, is the genesis of everything and while he diversified, Emile also understood that the brand could keep up with the times without abandoning its origins. “While there is no direct link between the clothing and the horse,” admits de Bazelaire, “his idea was to maintain the same elegance, purity and function in everything Hermès did.”
This link remains tenacious to this day and this treasure trove of antique objects plays a very tangible role in the modern design process: a dog collar becomes a statement leather cuff in the hands of the design studio. “Emile was quick to realise that the collection could be a tool, a source of inspiration and a kind of springboard from which to jump into the future,” says de Bazelaire, adding, “It is a kind of academy for the team at Hermès.” The collection continues to grow and is now one of the most diverse private equestrian collections in the world, while Emile’s corner office, remains just as he left it. A sun-lit room of polished oak floors and panelling and faded green furnishings where history was once made, and the past lives on in the present.