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C California Style

Harnessing Heritage

by C California Style

In the pantheon of fashion, the house of Hermès holds an indisputable, yet thoroughly modern, pride of place

The minute specifications required of its iconic handcrafted leather bags are impossibly exacting, and the ready-to-wear offerings from the French label—whose creative directors have included Martin Margiela, Jean-Paul Gaultier and now Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski—and fine jewelry designed by Pierre Hardy, are thoroughly elegant yet decidedly wearable. Each creative has, in turn, pulled ideas from the 1837 origins of the house as a harness-maker and saddler with a penchant for lavish interpretations of practical necessities. Yet few outsiders, who have not made a pilgrimage to 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, have been privy to the vast collections of historic objects in the maison’s archives. Now, with a series of traveling Hermès Heritage exhibitions—including the week-long “Harnessing the Roots” show curated by Bruno Gaudichon that opened on March 31 at the brand’s Beverly Hills boutique—objects at the heart of the Hermès identity are on display, stateside.

Throughout the open-to-the-public show, the parallels between elegant riding attire (bridles, tacked-up horses, saddles, buckles, and ties and straps) and jewelry and ready-to-wear designs are profound. The notion that each piece must be both useful and beautiful is just as clear in a buckle from the Emile Hermès collection (usually housed at the Paris flagship) as it is in a diamond-encrusted Mors de Bride necklace from the label’s 2015 collection. As artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas notes, “there is no amnesia in design” at Hermès. Inside the Beverly Hills boutique, Gaudichon has opened the maison’s cabinet of curiosities and arranged the equestrian trove in five airy rooms staged by Laurence Fontaine. From a terra-cotta harnessed horse dating to 2500 B.C., to an Apple Watch Hermès with a signature Double Tour strap, the show gives new meaning to the notion of timelessness. Through April 7. 434 Rodeo Dr., B.H., 310-278-6440; hermes.com.

Written by ELIZABETH VARNELL.