From May 28 to June 11, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) is hosting under the petals of its compass rose, an exhibition dedicated to the Hermès bag. The exhibition, “Once upon a bag” is the fourth chapter in a series of Hermès heritage exhibitions. Fifty contemporary bags from the iconic house are placed in dialogue with objects from the Conservatoire des Créations Hermès and artefacts from the remarkable collection brought together by Émile-Maurice Hermès, grandson of Thierry Hermès, who founded the Parisian house in 1837.

Made up of travel souvenirs as intriguing as they are stunning, as well as objects linked to the equestrian world, to which the DNA of Hermès is tightly linked, the Émile-Maurice Hermès collection forms a fascinating cabinet of curiosities located in the attic of the Hermès flagship store at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It is there, on the third floor, in a little known museum, that the inexhaustible reservoir of stories and ideas from which the creatives and craftsmen of the house draw their inspiration can be found.

The languages of time

A Hermès bag is not an ordinary object. It is alive, it belongs to a lineage of craftsmanship, it evolves, it has been made with passion by craftsmen whose know-how has been passed down within the house for six generations. It develops a patina without ever wearing out and the hours devoted to its manufacture multiply its longevity by several decades. This bag, that gets better with age, can only be passed on. As such, each conveys an individual story, but also the story of Hermès and its heritage.

This artisanal and creative adventure, part memory and part modernity, is presented at the NMoQ with the assistance of Bruno Gaudichon, curator of La Piscine – the museum of art and industry in Roubaix, and scenographer Laurence Fontaine. With a narrative approach that juxtaposes the languages of time, the display begins with the history of the Haut à Courroies bag, which first appeared in the early 20th century. This artefact, with its equestrian roots, bears witness to the house’s expansion into leather goods.

A story of change

Presented in themes, the exhibition continues with an area devoted to the different families of Hermès bags – the clutch, the ladies’ bag (Kelly, Constance, Simone Hermès, etc.), the men’s bag (Sac à Dépêches, Cityback basketball backpack…), the travel bag (Plume 24h, Herbag, among others), and the sports bag – and presents the defining stages of their respective stories.

Over the course of the last century, Hermès’ pieces were to undergo great change, mirroring the changes taking place in society. From 1923, Hermès seized the spirit of the age and began to design more functional bags for women, like the ‘Sac pour l’auto’, the first model to incorporate a zip, an idea which Émile Hermès brought back from the United States and used to great effect. With the growth of travel, the house developed models that were ever lighter and more innovative

A watchmaker’s precision

Until today, Hermès continues to invent bags with surprising forms and unique ways of wearing them that often become iconic models and part of its rich heritage. This blend of creativity, artisanal know-how and agility has powered the house’s ability to adapt to a perpetually changing world and to men’s and women’s evolving requirements.

This presentation of Hermès’ leather goods, the ideal playground for innovation, is accompanied by a rich array of iconography to illustrate changing lifestyles and  how people used their bags over the years.

A room is dedicated to exquisite clasps cleverly engineered with a watchmaker’s precision (Clutch lock, 24 bag mosaic, etc.). This gives way to more whimsicalmodels with the ‘Bags of Mischief’ collection from the 1980s, designed by Jean-Louis Dumas, chairman of Hermès from 1978 to 2006, which translates fun and quirky designs into leather marquetry. Enjoy the visit!

Saturday – Thursday, from 9 am to 7 pm

Friday, from 1:30 pm to 7 pm

Location: National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ)

Source and image credit: Hermès