Hermès is the only maison to venture into a more complicated dimension, while every marketing management seeks only speed and simplification
On the corner of Via Condotti and Bocca di Leone, one enters a playroom. Magic tricks, fortune-telling paraphernalia, séances like out of a 1930s Agatha Christie mystery. A riddle, somewhere between mind and culture. One could say that Hermès is the only fashion maison to venture into a more complicated dimension, in an era in which marketing management (marketing, what an ugly word to include within these lines) seeks only speed and simplification suitable for the instant effectiveness of the digital medium. Hermès plays a different game: that of complication, of sophistication, of intellectual ability – after all, it makes more sense to talk about luxury and style surrounded by these subjects, than about provocative pos- es, parties, and flash bulbs.
Complicated. Hermès is complicated, like a novel with multiple narrators that unfolds on three axes of time. Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin lived at the beginning of the 20th century. A magician, he manipulated objects. When passing through Rome, he performed for the cardinals – breaking a pocket watch which then reappeared among the vestments of the Pope. Robert-Houdin had beautiful penmanship. In Paris he lived at the Palais Royal, in the apartments of Richelieu. Ehnrich Weisz looked to him for his stage name, and decided on Houdini. Matali crasset, a woman with a short crop of grey hair and eyeglasses with thick black frames, who wants the first letters of her name to always be written in the lower case, is an industrial designer. Together with Stephane Correard, a curator of contemporary art, crasset has imagined and recreated everything that could have been inside one of Houdin’s trunks while in Rome. First of all, a film – what could be less complicated? The film shows Houdin absorbed by his magic tricks in the study of Emile Hermès, in that which, in Paris, is now known as the Hermès Museum. Within this trunk are the paintings by Fleury Joseph Crépin – both legend and prophesy, Crepin completed three hundred paintings because he had been told that the war would end on the day he finished his three-hundredth painting. He began in 1939, and the last painting bears the date 8 May 1945. Also according to the prophesy, when the war was over Crepin would then have had to paint forty-five tableaux merveilleux.
This is only a brief allusion to the first chapter dedicated to the magician, Houdin – in this complicated and wondrous story which Hermès has dedicated to the concept of ‘play’. The second chapter will begin in June, with the illusions of George Méliès, a director and stage magician who was active during the years of the Lumière brothers. The third chapter will take place in September, with the puns and plays on words of Raymond Roussel, a master of Pataphysics, a sculptor of phrases, an eccentric in both his style and his way of life, and a man of letters who was only recognized after his lifetime. The three ‘games’ of Hermès. In Rome, at dinner at Palazzo Torlonia with Pierre Alexis Dumas, creative director and owner (together with all of his family) of maison Hermès, before sitting down at the table among dishes suspended by magnets, rhyming poems, and crooked crystal glassware, we went to the moon on a spaceship that rocketed into space like a champagne cork. It was a short film from 1909, in which the twenty-five frames per second were painted by hand with water colours. The film was silent and the grand piano positioned beneath the projector.