With New York Fashion Week upon us, speed and efficiency are the mantras
of the day: how quickly can you get from one show to the next? How many
looks can you squeeze into a 12-minute runway presentation? So how
refreshing it was to ponder the Hermès traveling exhibition Festival des
Metiers, part of its 175th anniversary celebration, at a special preview
the brand hosted Tuesday night at 583 Park Avenue, followed by an
exclusive dinner. The show highlights the house’s emphasis on meticulous
detail and pristine quality—values that require days and months, not
minutes—through ten different craftsman’s stations, each devoted to an
ultra specific art form. One booth housed a man who has been exclusively
making leather saddles for 18 years. In another corner was a woman
painstakingly applying pave diamonds to embellish a rose gold Collier de
Chien bracelet (the pave portion, alone, takes four weeks). A
particularly popular worker was creating a leather handle for a Kelly
bag, a process that from start to finish requires two hours.
A craftsman making an Hermès silk scarf
“The handle is the first thing you learn how to make,” he explained to a
woman toting a crocodile version of the signature style.
A clarion call of six trumpeters announced dinner time to guests like
Lisa Airan, Jennifer Creel, Julie Macklowe, Aerin Lauder, Bettina Zilkha
and Marina Rust.
From left: Aerin Lauder; Julie and Billy Macklowe
“Now I know what they mean by fanfare,” quipped one woman.
Everyone descended to the space’s basement for a meal of truffled
cauliflower soup and Chilean sea bass, during which Hermès CEO Bob
Chavez remarked, “We know as a company we test your patience a lot, but
we hope you understand with this why quality takes time.” (Puts that
wait for your new Birkin in perspective, doesn’t it?)
From left: Lizzie Tisch; Allison Sarofim and Bob Chavez
Dessert included large chocolate eggs that diners had to break open with
Lucite hammers to find the surprise inside. Sadly, it wasn’t an Hermès
Photos: Billy Farrell and Neil Rasmus