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.
“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.
“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?)
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 accessory.
Photos: Billy Farrell and Neil Rasmus