Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Last night, Hermès CEO Axel Dumas and the brand’s U.S. President and CEO Robert Chavez hosted “All About Women” in New York City. Hermès Women’s Universe Artistic Director Bali Barret was the brains behind the vision of the evening, first taking place in Shanghai in 2012 and Paris in 2013.
Having interviewed Barret last year and attended the brand’s unforgettable Theme Launch for 2012 in Paris (horse-drawn carriages, carrot flutes, endive whistles, illuminated garments, and a meal that required a hammer, were just some of its memorable highlights) we knew when we received the invitation that this was a night not be missed. In the days leading up to “All About Women” we received a tip sheet promising a fashion show, multiple live performances, a fortuneteller, carnival games, and a photo booth (one of two) with a mechanical horse. So we invited a date to act as a witness, our expectations high.
Well, our expectations were more than met. “All About Women” took place at 23 Wall Street, a raw space (we were told later) that had been completely built out for the occasion. An origami-like sculpture of a silk-carré-patterned horse greeted us as we arrived outside on Wall Street. Entering the corner building, we walked through a faceted mirror-lined hallway with a scarf-inspired floor that led to a grand, red-carpeted staircase. There stood Dumas, Chavez, and Hermès Artistic Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas greeting guests like Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey, Anh Duong, Jodie Foster, Martha Stewart, China Chow, Glenn O’Brien, Phillip Lim, Lucien Smith, Cecilia Dean, Inez & Vinoodh, Richard Phillips, David Adjaye, and David Byrne.
After ascending the stairs – ignoring every selfie impulse in the name of self preservation – we grabbed a glass of champagne and took our seats in a section of the long runway that wove around the second floor. The lights went down and the stunning, understated, jaw-droppingly elegant fall/winter women’s ready-to-wear collection was shown (for the first time in the US) on models sporting pin-straight hair worn down with tight twists on the side. We may or may not have let out a few gasps at a cream wool coat here and calf-length suede and shearling vest there. As the models took their final walk and we applauded the work of Christophe Lemaire, we found ourselves newly all about the Hermès woman.
Then it was time to explore several magical moments and manifestations back on the first floor. We started at the Bangle Bar, a cylindrical structure where arms draped in Hermès’ signature enamel bangles held out glasses of champagne through a slit just high enough to fit a flute through – all arms and no legs or heads. More champagne was imbibed as we moved in to the Songs of Silk room, a cozy space covered in dark maroon, plush fabrics and red silk scarves. A female guitarist, perched on a love seat, and singer Sabine Sciubba, interacting with guests, sang love songs by bands like the Cure.
We were drawn to the next room by tropical music and a glimpse of a bar lined with oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail. We found ourselves in pool scene complete with lounge chairs and a diving board, entitled A Bigger Splash. As we edged our way to the front, a synchronized routine of models in swimwear unfolded, showcasing one- and two-piece suits, sandals, and sarongs in solids, stripes, and schemes. It was Bob Fosse meets Busby Berkley and we watched it twice, coveting every suit that sashayed past.
Passing through The Art of The Scarf, where models sporting classic carrés were sketched by artists in a studio class setting, we overheard a fortune being told to a young women in Silk Fortunes, a spirited alcove with a tented ceiling made form deep blue silk scarves. We re-oriented ourselves with a cocktail of vodka and elderflower in the Du Jour Bar, a lounge showcasing the tastes and scents that went into creating Jean-Claude Ellena’s recent olfactory masterpiece for the maison, Jour d’Hermès. We were handed perfumed paper flowers as we sat and sipped in the all-white room complete with oversized papier mâché florals and gramophones.
Soon enough, we were lured by some very Twin Peaks-y (more White Lodge than Black) tunes to watch Dancing Bags, a high energy, musical theater-feeling performance choreographed by Andrea Miller of Gallim Dance Company that highlighted this season’s handbag collection. With accessories on the mind, we checked out In Step, a series of isolated, interchanging performances where shoes were center stage.
A parade of men (purposely off-theme), the Pom Pom Boys, broke our trance and led us back upstairs for a buffet dinner of lamb, cheese, lobster tail, and freshly sliced carpaccio. As we dined, DJ Clara 3000 got things moving on the dance floor, where things kept going until late.
We had seen signs of a photo booth (and heard whispers of two) so we went back downstairs with a clear mission. We found the first – a wrought iron bed in front of an orange, blue, and purple illustration of Hermès’ headquarters in Paris. Striking several Vanity Fair cover-inspired poses, we nabbed our prints in pursuit of the pony-themed photo booth we’d read about earlier. We had a hunch it may be in Horse Play, and we were right. There, between a few scattered bales of hay and a full-on, straight-out-of-a-carnival skeeball horse racing game, were two carousel horses. We hopped on and mugged for the camera, (me, congratulating myself on having worn tuxedo pants instead of a dress).
After a couple games of skeeball horseracing (where we were deemed shining examples of good sportsmanship by the operator), we realized we were in danger of overstaying our welcome, noticing that the last few guests were trickling out and those left lingering were politely awaiting our departure, exhausted from what must have been months of preparations and weeks of build-out. We gathered our photos, scored a bottle each of Jour d’Hermès, and made the trip home, still in awe of the evening when we woke this morning. Hermès may be all about women, but we’re feeling all about Hermès.