With Harnesses and Heritage, Hermès Channels Its Roots in Milan

It was 50 shades of Hermès for the luxury maison's compelling Milan Design Week presentation. New and vintage pieces were shown in tandem and in dialogue.

A 1950's silk jockey jersey inspired this 2024 cashmere blanket. Photo: Maxime Verret. Courtesy of Hermès.

For its Milan Design Week outing, Hermès showcased its new home collections alongside vintage pieces from the heritage house’s history. It was a narrative of both craft and communication, a dialogue that transcended time—artisans passing on savoir-faire techniques and design flourishes and motifs through the generations.

a brown leather and aluminum designer lounge chair

Diapason d’Hermès lounge chair. Hammered aluminium, seat and back in unlined bridle leather. Courtesy of Hermès

For example, a hammered silver necklace from 2002 was displayed next to an exquisite leather lounge chair from this season. The chair’s aluminum elements echoed the mottled texture of the silver. Each new item had a corresponding archival artifact. Surprisingly, the presentation, dubbed “The Topography of Matter,” was also a subversively sexy affair, which made it all the more compelling.

a geometric sculpture;trual floor pattern of various hued bricks

The dramatic sculptural entranceway dominated the vast space. Photo: Maxime Verre. Courtesy of Hermès

Visitors entered the cavernous, dimly-lit Spazio Pelota. Most of the vast space was devoted to an abstract art configuration on the floor of meticulously arranged and mysteriously patterned bricks and stones. It encompassed 16 different flooring types and was put together by French artisans specialized in earth construction. It was impressive and dramatic scenography, but for the real show one had to venture behind a black curtain.

Other items informing the pieces were rope, whips, leather gloves, a horse hood, riding crops, and my favorite, a severe-looking 1988 leather and horsehair flycatcher with strap. I don’t know how the 1980s artisans rendered the mane in New Wave orange, but it was mighty impressive. All in all, everything added a revelatory edge to the refined austere chic Hermès is renowned for.

And of course, it all makes sense and harks back to the Paris luxury house’s equestrian roots. It was founded in 1837 as a harness maker. No jockeys seemed to be in attendance, but a 1950s silk jockey jersey did inform the seriously chic Tartan Dye blanket. And maybe 40 years from now, that very blanket will inspire another creation.

an array of leather goods is arranged in a dark gallery

An installation view of “The Topography of Matter.” Photo: Maxime Verre. Courtesy of Hermès

The collection is on view and free to the public at La Pelota, via Palermo 10, Milan through April 21. 

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