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The Hermès Carré Club was a glimpse into the joie de vivre of its Artisan Scarves

The Hermes Carre Club was a glimpse into an extraordinary, larger than life(style) without stepping into a Wes Anderson movie

Dec 18, 2018 | By Jonathan Ho

Visually sumptuous, meticulous, quirky and undeniably lush, these are some of the descriptions which apply to the some 65 grams of silk Hermès scarves when the leather atelier starting making carré (or squares) some 100 years after Thierry Hermès began with harnesses and saddles for a privileged clientele. Though boots and bags were eventually added to the repertoire by grandson Emile Hermès, the Hermès scarf eventually became the benchmark for craftsmanship and discreet luxury during the twentieth century.

It is said that the idea for the first Hermès scarves was inspired by the shawls worn by Napolean’s soldiers, designed from a woodblock drawing by Robert Dumas, a member of the family, in mind, the scarves made with imported Chinese silk made the stoles twice as strong relative to the scarves available at the time and, it became an immediate hit.

The reception of the Hermès Carre Club

The Hermès carré Club was a glimpse into the joie de vivre of its Artisan Scarves

For three October days in 2018, a mansion (the former Kinloss House) on Lady Hill Road was transformed into the Hermès Carré Club, expressing the joie de vivre of Hermès silk scarves. It’s one thing to read about how each collectible work of art takes two years to make, it’s quite another to enter a world of free spirited exploration and collective joy. Right from the reception desk where over 4,300 guests checked in and received their “membership” into an exclusive venue, the “gentleman’s club” served as multi-faceted and participatory tribute to the beloved silk square.

“An Hermès carré is a signature and what makes it so special is the subtle combination between colours, design and silk. With every season and every new colour, the spectrum broadens. The message of the club is to convey a sense of inclusivity, of fun, of freedom, across generations and cultures. We wanted to show humanity at the heart of the Hermès carré, inviting our members to watch as our designers sketch, listening and sharing their own carré stories; to sing carré-ok; and to unwind at our carré café. We wanted to show that in addition to the Hermès carré being a beautiful and contemporary scarf, it is also the product of a shared and dynamic creative process.”

Carré Mania, a unique retail concept, offered a selection of autumn-winter 2018 scarves and a specialedition Carré Club Ex-libris 55 bandana in silk twill.

Mise-en-scène through the eyes of Hermès

Like the witty, meticulously detailed, utterly idiosyncratic films of Wes Anderson’s, to enter the Hermès Carre Club is to be drawn into a life extraordinary and a fantastic lifestyle. Unlike a Wes Anderson film, for an October weekend, the Hermès Carre Club was a world you could, touch, feel, and see. It was real not merely something to be watched.

Gianpaolo Pagni brought new life to Hermès’ very first scarf, Jeu des omnibus et des dames blanches, with his signature wood stamping technique

Each Hermès scarf or Carre (square) is the work of up to 18 months of research, drawing from a variety of styles, contributions from notable artists such as Matisse, and almost eight weeks of production time for the famed silk-screen printing process. The Hermès Carre Club invited one into the world of the artist, where through a retinue of activities, demonstrations and experiences, one participates in the world of the artist in environs that are simultaneously familiar and escapist.

“We have always encouraged the celebration of silk with events such as Hermèsmatic, Crazy Carré, and Paris mon ami. Hermès Carré Club began with the idea of bringing the silk square or carré to life – the collaboration and creative process behind our carrés are very intense and demanding. The idea of a club very naturally followed on from this initial studio idea. A club seemed like the perfect way to bring a community together to discover the carré and to meet our designers that echoed the studio environment of their creation.”

The Hermès Carre Club skate park

Conceived by Bali Barret, artistic director of the Hermès women’s universe, the Carré Club featured nine participatory concepts – from the Carré-ok to the Carré park skate ramp, each delivered a meaningful experience of the humble scarves’ alchemy of craftsmanship, art, and heritage – an epoch of expression.

The artistic epicentre of the Hermès Carre Club. Rather than bore, as most would, with a series of “educational factoids” like 100 Carres or squares being produced from silk spread out on 150 metre long heated tables; or the 750 hours alone to engrave the screens for printing (one screen per colour,  or the artisan process of hand rolled and stitched hems by skilled seamstresses, taking up to 45 minutes per square; the on-site atelier provided a creative workshop for carré designers and artisans to create live works of art in real time which guests could participate and interact with:

  • Gianpaolo Pagni, whose interests involve appropriating old documents with custom stamps, demonstrating a direct stamping technique upon silk scarves creating a new layer of illustration including a modern interpretation of Jeu des omnibus et des dames blanches, bringing new life to Hermès’ very first scarf.
  • Ugo Gattoni and Jean-Simon Roch who created and animated a series of drawings introducing the recurring character Mino.
  • Alice Shirley, an instinctive talent for rendering realistic animals amidst artistic natural settings.
  • Keng Saw who will illustrated members’ portraits in his signature quirky style (apparently he felt I looked like Johnny Bravo)
  • Octave Marsal and Théo de Gueltzl performing live sessions, creating freely in the manner of a cadavre exquis (aka exquisite cadaver, a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled) , to develop drawings into exciting forms including a sneak peek of their spring-summer 2019 design À l’ombre des pivoines where giant peonies meet a miniature cityscape.
  • Singapore artist Izziyana Suhaimi, whose interest is in exploring the role that traditional craftsmanship plays in modern art and popular culture, embroidering colourful threads onto Hermès scarves.

Octave Marsal and Théo de Gueltzl gave a sneak peek into their spring-summer 2019 design À l’ombre des pivoines where giant peonies meet a miniature cityscape.

Ask any participant and they’re more likely to remember these activities than regurgitate information that the Hermès Lyonnaise factory can produce 40,000 scarves in a week or that on average, each Carré has 27 distinct colours, created in a hand-silkscreened which can take up to six months to complete.

“Through the whimsical experiences at Carré Club in Singapore, Hermès continues its tradition of engaging playfully with the city’s community.” – Alvin de Souza, Hermès Managing Director (Singapore and Malaysia)

The punny “Carre-ok”

Indeed, the Carré Club paid joyous homage to Hermès’ signature silk scarf via a sprawling club, where guests listened to Carré Stories on vintage telephone sets, or left their own mark by naming one of 75,000 colours on giant walls – each one used by Hermès over decades of carré creation. Took flights of whimsy courtesy of the Carré Cut, a salon which dispensed and style bespoke wigs and manicure services – the perfect stop before heading to the Carré-OK booths for a spot of crooning and, of course, Carré Disco with its lighted dance floor and square disco balls. All while outside, a troupe of French skateboarders performed gravity-defying stunts at Carré Park, a skate ramp covered in carré designs. According to Barret, “The message of Hermès Carré Club was to convey a sense of inclusivity, of fun, of freedom, across generations and cultures. It was a club that celebrated the human relationships which knot a carré together.” It’s hard to think of an atelier which has communicated that raison d’etre with equal panache or impact.

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