by Jerry ElengicalJun 01, 2022
For Hermès, the essence of a collection is about oscillating between tradition and innovation, and a perennial reinvention of the know-how to work with materials such as leather, textiles, metals and stone. Every year, the revelation of the brand's home collection at the Salone del Mobile in Milan is marked by unique gestures of rigour and storytelling, and their presentation by a refined architectural setting. From the Brutalist earthen brick pavilion by Mexican architect Mauricio Rocha at the Teatro Vetra from 2016 to the colourful zellige-tiled pavilions at the La Permanente museum from 2018, the past seven years for Hermès have seen not only a closer tending to gestures craftsmen make in order to create contemporary objects, but also design of exemplary architectural visions to become backdrops to their collections.
A closer look into the intricacies of materiality has been a focus for the 183-year-old brand’s collections in recent years. Be it the 2019 theme Spotlight on materials that paid tribute to materials in all their forms (a line, a motif, or an object), or the year 2021 which was centred on the spirit of Contemplating materials that observed the shape of a line, a motif, and an object, this year the idea was all about the quest for lightness in the design process. Themed Looking for Lightness, four grand pavilions in the shape of water towers created an ironic impression of lightness at the La Pelota in Milan's Brera neighbourhood. The structures, constructed of wood and featuring a translucent skin made of coloured paper, radiate light.
The exhibition draws its cues from Maison's theme of the year - Vive la Légèreté – which translates to 'long live lightness'. Musing on the fictional story of the Greek mythological legend Pegasus – the beautiful, pure white stallion with wings - Hermès with this year’s collection seeks to capture what Pegasus described as the lightness gained when "the everyday becomes wondrous", much like "the softness of a smile, the gentleness of a caress, the gracefulness of a gesture".
Materials, lighting, and the collection communicate the essence of lightness at the Hermès setup at Salone del Mobile. A key highlight this year has been the introduction of textiles as the underlying theme of the collection. Cashmere, a favourite of the house, weaves five creations that become the fabric of this manifesto of lightness and a medium to define the company’s expertise in this field. Speaking of the craft behind these textile pieces, Hermès shares in an official release, "Textiles explore different manufacturing techniques: strips of cashmere form the design of ethereal plaids; squares woven and dyed by hand make up a great patchwork of shimmering colours; geometric shapes assembled using a linking technique evoke stained-glass windows; a large, quilted bed cover brings colours, patchwork and traditional quilting technique into dialogue."
Besides textiles, the luxury brand also presented an array of objects which include hand painted leather centrepieces, porcelain plates, and a cane work seat, all connecting to the theme of lightness. The pieces were staged on high piles of paper. Here the choice of material too ties itself to the overarching lightness, mimicking the materiality of the pavilion’s structure yet keeping it different in presentation and style. According to Hermès, the idea was to achieve a certain balance and harmony, and the right gestures and touches in displaying the collection. "Lightness of lines," the brand adds, "produces timeless style, as these creations demonstrate. Our perception changes as light plays over them when backlit against the scenographic structures: poetic giants and anchoring points for these small miracles of equilibrium."
Keeping a particular focus on circular design, the sheets of paper used in the interiors as well as the wood and paper of the pavilion's enclosure was sent back to be recycled for use in other projects when the event concluded last month.
Speaking through the lens of an intriguing inquiry, the French luxury brand was able to cast a spell yet again at the design community for eschewing noise and sensation in place of simplicity and rigour. In line with the previous collections, there has definitely been a granular focus on architecture in establishing the context before revealing the idea. We wonder if architecture is to become the catalyst to distinctly express the values of a design collection in the future, and if brands should take cues from Hermès!
STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.