Something Hermès This Way Comes

Have you ever experienced the inability to relax? You desperately want to chill out and think of nothing, but your mind doesn’t agree, and keeps on working. I experience this all the time, probably because I am used to doing different things at the same time, so stopping is very hard. In particular, what I would like to stop doing is establishing connections among things. I sometimes feel like John Nash (hey, I’m not a genius, but I hope you’ve got what I mean): I am not dealing with numbers, but with images.

When I first saw the fall/winter 2010 advertising campaign by Hermès, my mind soon started spinning, activated by a mood screaming Victorian London. I don’t know where the shooting by Paolo Roversi was set, but the foggy atmosphere pervading all the pictures surely pays homage to one of my favourite historical periods.

The horse-car without a coachman, riding the paved streets of a lonely town, is a mysterious image filled with charm: I am sure many of you are wondering about the content of that load of Orange potiron boxes, just like I did. This fascinating image has lead to two possible sources, movies set in London during the Victorian Age, that is in the second half of the 19th century.

The first is From Hell (2001) by Allen and Albert Hughes, based on the mystery of Jack the Ripper. Most of the story is set at night, in a foggy and rainy town. The screencap above is magnificent – the Thames flowing, the Tower of London and the Big Ben in the background – and actually presents an atmosphere which is very similar to the one in Hermès’s campaign.

The second is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941) by Victor Fleming, starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. The film, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is the epitome of the Victorian Age: everything which is not respectable had to be hidden and locked, but the tragedy exploded when the inhuman (or simply the unconventional) part of ourselves was let loose.

The second picture of the campaign is similar to the first, but here a human figure is present: a horseman is riding a black horse, wearing an all-black outfit, including riding boots, a bowler hat and a stunning Kelly en Perles shawl.  The name of the shawl comes from the four Kelly bags printed on it. In this case, the shawl looks more like a mantle and this can possibly hint to another source of the campaign.

Constance Jablonski is the mysterious horseman of the second picture. Here she’s not riding a horse, who is still, probably ready to ride again. The model is wearing a black leather outfit with a crisp white shirt, a tie, a black coat and a long white scarf. I love the feminine touch of the scarf, fluttering in the wind, and I also like the eyeglass – or magnifier – she’s wearing as a pendant. Besides the outfit, the focus is on the bowler hat [1], the most British hat of all: this one has an unmistakable Hermès touch, the Kelly lock on the hat band.

I would like to be a lucky fisherman as Constance appears to be in this picture. She’s wearing riding boots and a black leather catsuit, which reminds me of Emma Peel from The Avengers (a character who actually inspired the fall/winter 2010 collection). The stunning bag she’s carrying is a Jypsiere, like the ones floating in water.

Wind can be tricky and cause a major disaster, like the loss of a Hermès scarf. The one flying away from the model is an Ex Libris Camouflage piece. She’s trying to catch it, wearing another all-black outfit, accessorized with two more scarves and stacked enamel bracelets. Though lively and dinamic, this picture is full of romantic details: the moon, peeking through the fog, the gables of a house, the wrought-iron banister.

This is one of the pieces de resistance of the campaign, because it features the coveted So Black Kelly bag, part of a limited-edition collection (which also includes a Birkin bag), made of black leather or crocodile with black hardware. The box and the dust bag are black, too. Though a big fan of the Kelly bag, I much prefer the original version, with gold or palladium hardware.

The second source of inspiration for the campaign becomes clear in the picture below.

Constance is wearing a mask of printed silk and an incredible piece of jewelry, a Collier de Chien cuff bracelet in diamond and white gold. On the other wrist, two bracelets with diamond buttons can be seen, but I guess all eyes are on the cuff.

The role of the protagonist of the campaign is unclear – is she a thief or an avenger in disguise? – but the picture above surely pays homage to the most famous masked hero of all times, Zorro. Don Diego de la Vega is the nobleman who wears a mask to fight against the corrupted oppressors of his country (California during the Mexican period). The first who brought the fictional character on the big screen was Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 with The Mark of Zorro by Fred Niblo (this was a silent movie), but Tyrone Power gave him fame exactly 20 years later, when he starred in another The Mark of Zorro, this time directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

The beauties featured in the campaign are a part of the fall/winter 2010 collection, a breathless series of magnificent bags. Jean-Paul Gaultier focused on the Kelly bag, one of the most famous styles of the French maison, and showed it in many versions and sizes.

Have you ever thought of a studded Kelly bag? I don’t like the idea, but the result is incredibly chic and modern. The small Kelly on the right has a silver bracelet – could it be a Chaîne d’Ancre necklace? – as bag candy.

Kelly Mini Pochettes in neutral colours and in different leathers – Barenia and Togo – were attached to the handle of umbrellas, an original presentation which emphasized the British vibe of the collection.

Luxurious materials, such as exotic leathers, are often used by Hermès: both the bright orange Mini Kelly bag and the red Kelly Danse clutch are made of crocodile. Though not a fan of furs or exotic leathers, I must admit these two bags are to die for, especially the first.

Crocodile leather in black and chocolate brown characterise the beautiful clutches above, a Kelly Cut and a Kelly Mini Pochette. Aren’t they chic?

I don’t own any Hermès bag (and never will, I guess), but if I could afford one, I surely wouldn’t buy a Birkin. I used to like it a lot, but it has been overexposed since that infamous Sex and the City episode [2], where Samantha tried to go on top of the waiting list for a red Birkin, pretending it was for Lucy Liu. For this reason, the black crocodile Birkin leaves me quite cold. On the other hand, I love the Kelly Mini Pochette on the right.

The collection includes other Birkins, made of white crocodile. They remind me of the super-precious Himalayan Birkin with diamond-studded hardware sported by Victoria Beckham in 2009.

These two Kellys are made of shearling, and clearly remind me of the Kelly sported by Victoria Beckham in the early 2000s.

I would never buy a bag like these, because I would like to carry all the time, not in winter only. I guess Victoria Beckham carried it in spring or summer, too, to cushion the whopping price of the bag.

Which of these beauties would you like to have in your closet? I would definitely go for the smaller studded Kelly or for the Mini Kelly Pochette in Togo leather, maybe in a bright colour.

[1] Some years ago I tried to trace a simple cultural journey about bowler hats. It’s written in Italian, but you can watch the pictures only 😉

[2] It was the 59th episode of the 4th season, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.

Source, source and source.

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10 comments

  1. ehi, le scatole dall’alto sembrano davvero… potirons! campagna perfetta per Halloween. A proposito di Inghilterra vittoriana: mi sto un po’ appassionando al giaietto.

    1. E’ vero: assomigliano a delle zucche 🙂

      Ah, io adoro il giaietto, specie nell’ambito mourning jewelry (le collane!).

  2. I actually quite like the Kelly bag with black hardware; instead, I don’t like the studded one. The Gypsiere is also very nice, I think it makes a perfect everyday bag.
    This is a beautiful campaign, but then again Hermes ones are always impeccable!
    I must admit I would have never thought of Zorro as the inspiration, I just got carried away by the London setting (I have a soft spot for London on film, regardless of what the film is!).In terms of “cinematic references”, it reminded me a lot of the night scenes in Polanski’s Oliver Twist, of the opening scenes of Sweeney Todd and Dorian Gray- the film absolutely butchers the novel, but London is still depicted quite well! Also, Constance’s mask made me think of this painting by Magritte http://www.all-art.org/art_20th_century/surrealist_art/magritte/138.jpg

    PS: I will never forget that post of yours about the bowler hat and that collection by McQueen. Everytime I think of him, I am so sad as I know nobody could ever embrace that English spirit, imbued in nostalgia for the Victorian era, the way he did.

    1. The Jypsiere and the Evelyne are amazing everyday bags; too bad they’re so expensive 😦

      I’ve never watched Dorian Gray, but I agree on the possible influence of Polanski’s Oliver Twist and Burton’s Sweeney Todd. Needless to say, I love everything (fashion, art, literature, comic books) connected to the Victorian Age and London at that time, because I think the urgency to live according to the principles of respectability and order actually hid an incredibly fascinating – though dangerous – dark side of the society.

      The Magritte painting is impressive. What is its title?

      I am sad for McQueen’s death, more than words can tell. He was such a pure talent, who expressed in nostalgic terms, through fashion, what others (I’m thinking of Charles Dickens, of Sir Conan Doyle, for example) had expressed in words.

      1. Its title is The Return of the Flame, but you might find it as Fantomas too, as it was used for a poster depicting this character.
        The whole Victorian Age has starting growing on me in the last couple of years, I suppose it’s hard to avoid it when you live in London- but I have always had a passion for jet, even before finding out that it was brought in fashion by Queen Victoria herself after becoming a widow.

      2. Yes, I’ve just found out that the painting was used as playbill for the first Fantomas movie (1913). Awesome!

  3. Loved your analysis! This is the perfect fall campaign, especially with Halloween right around the corner. It’s dark, intriguing & a bit illusive. IMO the fishing & balcony ads are to create desire for the products. My favs are the collier de chien & croc clutch.

    1. I agree: depicting something which is flying away screams “catch me”, in commercial terms “buy me”. Then, the fishing pond underlines the availability of the items, like “If you have the right tools (the fishing rod, but money in commercial terms), you can have me.”

      Awww, the CdC is one of my obsessions!

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