Above the Hermès boutique in central Paris, on the third floor of a beautiful townhouse on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, is a museum, the highlight of which is the wonderfully preserved office that once belonged to Emile Hermès, the grandson of the company’s founder Thierry, and the first man to put a zip on a bag.
His office here in Paris is an emporium of artefacts, containing dozens of beautiful, niche objects fashioned by the man himself. There’s a silk umbrella secretly housed inside a walking cane that was created by Emile when he was just 12 years old; there are surreal table clocks embedded in horse stirrups, and travel kits containing everything a man could possibly need for a long excursion in the early 1900s. Elsewhere within these walls that are adorned with exquisite artworks, stand shelves with leather-bound portfolios filled with patterned jockey silk swatches and of course, beautifully crafted leather horse saddles, some of which are topped with rich leopard skins. This room is the beating heart of Hermès, a brand that started by making horse saddles almost 200 years ago.
Artistic Director of Hermès, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, describes how the natural elegance of the horse – the icon of the house – is the true origin of Hermès. “Thierry Hermès believed that harnesses worn by horses pulling carriages were heavy and large and hid the natural beauty of the animal,” he begins. “So he instead made them light and discreet so that they were barely visible, which allowed the beauty of the horse to be seen. Bingo – 180 years later and this is the very essence of beauty that we are inspired by. It’s the expression of oneself, being yourself rather than appearing something that’s not true to your personality.”
Hermès, of course, has a stellar track record when it comes to producing iconic items – take your pick from Birkin bags, Oran slides or a carnival of vibrant silk scarves, for example. This month sees the addition of another hit to that prestigious list: a logo-stamped, Bauhaus-inspired, orange-boxed lipstick from the latest métier, Rouge Hermès. Designed to give incredible pleasure as well as satisfy a functional requirement, the new cosmetic range continues the traditions of the French heritage fashion house, which has been conjuring beautiful and magical objects for the past 183 years.
Although rooted in historical tradition, the creators of Rouge Hermès have been careful to align the collection with today’s theme in the beauty industry – the idea we should be embracing and enhancing our own beauty rather than disguising ourselves behind make-up or an Instagram filter. After two years in development, the new range of 24 lipsticks can be considered objects of beauty before the lid has even been removed. Inspired by modern art, the casing harks back to the 1920s. According to Pierre Hardy, Creative Director for Hermès shoes and bags, it took many years to create the material of the cylindrical, refillable case. “The logo is like a fingerprint on the top of the lipstick lid, while the softness of the metal and gentle curve of the bottle embraces the strong and delicate paradox of Hermès,” he explains. “I focused on something essential, but in a playful way. These small objects that women handle every day are far removed from a preconceived notion of femininity and are designed to be purchased as you would purchase a piece of jewellery.”
The job of creating the colours of the lipsticks fell to Bali Barret, Artistic Director of the maison’s women’s universe. To honour the fundamental design and colour aesthetic of the house, she revisited the Hermès silk archives where she discovered no fewer than 75,000 silk swatches that inspired the final 24 colourways that make up the collection; from punchy oranges to signature reds and subtle nudes to tropical corals and smokey purples. “Colour is a passion at Hermès,” says Barret. “You can never stop learning with colour, as there are so many perceptions of colour, be it on leather, twill and, yes, even the complexion, too.”
After the time-intensive design process and in-depth colour selection came the sensory aspect and a discovery of a new dimension for the house: texture. “When I think of make-up, I think of materials – they carry colour. They give strength and subtlety. They give a particular finish,” says Jérôme Touron, Creative Director of Hermès Beauty. “For the lipstick I immediately thought of leather. For the matte finish I was inspired by the super-soft, buttery finish of Doblis [suede] leather, and for the satin I looked to the smooth, luminous box calfskin.”
Leaving no stone unturned, even the shape of the lipstick bullet was considered, “I made the matte more pointed for a very precise application and the satin is much more flat to achieve a more generous gift of colour,” explains Jérôme. Alongside the iconic lipsticks comes a lip balm, lip shine, a lip pencil, make-up tools and covetable accessories that comprise a handheld mirror and lipstick cases all in signature Madame calfskin.
Has Hermès created another winner with its debut cosmetics line? It certainly looks that way. The collection exudes the sort of fantastical spirit fans of the super-luxury house have come to love and expect. And as with everything Hermès, it’s an exquisitely made product with long lasting power.
The collection is available to buy at selected Hermès boutiques now
Images: Courtesy of Hermès