Category Archives: hermes

In Praise of the Bolide, a “Stealth” Hermès Bag

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Can anything “Hermès” ever be truly under the radar?

While those of us who are familiar (dare I posit, “obsessed”?) with the brand can likely identify almost any bag, belt, piece of jewelry etc. the house makes, even someone uninterested in fashion can likely recognize a Kelly or Birkin bag, due to endless media coverage of the KarTrashians, et. al.  For some, the association with celebrities — and the difficulty of buying these styles without a long relationship with a boutique sales associate — can make these bags too “in your face” and diminish the appeal of even the most beautiful design.

What to do if you love the house but don’t want to be seen as someone who buys into the hype? In my opinion, the Bolide offers the perfect combination of Hermès history and impeccable craftsmanship in a style less likely to telegraph your income or invite unwanted commentary. It’s also a more user-friendly style than the fussy Kelly or the “I’m so wealthy I can leave my bag open and not worry about pickpockets” Birkin.

The Bolide bag has a glamorous yet practical history, dating back to 1923 when Emile-Maurice Hermès created it for his wife — the first handbag designed with a newfangled invention called the zipper.

In 1916, M. Hermès had traveled across North America. In the course of these travels, he met Henry Ford, toured his many automobile factories, and discovered an ingenious fastening mechanism used on the cloth top of a car. Hermès returned to Paris with a two-year patent for the zipper, planning to adapt this odd skeletal sliding system for use on leather goods, hand luggage, and suitcases.

By 1923, the French fashion house was ready to introduce a carryall that replaced traditional metal clasps with a zippered compartment. This simple yet innovative motoring bag kept jewelry and other valuables safe at high speeds, and could be easily stowed in the trunk of a sports car.

Originally called the sac pour l’auto, the bag was later renamed the Bolide, the 16th-century word for meteor. As automobiles became more ubiquitous and the Bolide design was adopted and customized for car, train and transatlantic travel, Hermès became associated with speed and elegance in motion.

A smaller version — a true handbag rather than a carryall or travel case — debuted in 1982 with its characteristic dome shape, single zip closure, removable leather shoulder strap and a padlock with keys in a leather covering called a clochette.

Hermès is known for its many different leathers* — some no longer produced — which give the Bolide two distinctive shapes and look. Mou, in soft leather such as taurillon clemence, tends to be more casual, while the Rigide is sturdier and harder.

Often spotted in Paris and Tokyo, the Bolide remains a timeless example of understated chic. Plus, I love the fact that you can buy online if you don’t happen to live near a boutique. With the current trend towards smaller bags, the 31cm and 27cm are perfect day sizes depending on how much you lug around with you, while the mini 1923 is a really cute evening option. The larger 35cm, not available on the Hermès website these days, is often available (and less expensive than the 31cm) on the secondary market. And if you’re looking for a larger travel or business size bag, the 45cm can easily fit a small laptop computer or iPad.

L’amour, toujours!

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Bleu Abysse taurillon clemence “mou”, left. Rouge H vache liegée “rigide”, right.

 

*Current Bolide leathers, per the Hermès website:

Volupto calfskin (1923 Mini)

A transparent, very sensual, delicately satiny heritage leather similar to the leather used for clothing. Its extreme suppleness and minuscule, barely visible grain are the result of a long drumming procedure.
First appeared in the collections: 2013
Appearance: Quite smooth; satiny; mottled; clearly visible natural characteristics; subtly contrasting wrinkles
Feel: Silky and slightly waxy
Hand: Very supple; no roundness; richly sensual; full
Change over time: Softens; acquires a patina; darkens; becomes shinier in areas most handled. Gains resistance as patina develops

Swift calfskin (Bolide 27)

This extremely supple, sophisticated leather is named after Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, to highlight its resemblance to Gulliver calfskin, which no longer features in today’s collections.
First appeared in the collections: 2004
Appearance: Almost smooth with a delicate shine; lightly marked grain that is sometimes hardly noticeable
Feel: Soft and tender
Hand: Supple and generous
Change over time: Becomes even more supple

Taurillon Clemence leather (Bolide 31)

Named in tribute to the daughter of the designer who introduced it into the collections, this leather was developed for luggage and is the ultimate example of a grained leather that has been drummed. This process softens the skin and brings a generous grain to the surface.
First appeared in the collections: 1992
Appearance: Semi-matt, generous and irregular grain
Feel: Soft and smooth
Hand: Yielding
Change over time: Becomes more supple

Taurillon Novillo leather (Bolide 1923 – 30)

This leather has a tiny marked grain and is appealingly responsive at heart. In Spain, where this leather originates, “novillo” means “bullcalf”.
First appeared in the collections: 2015
Appearance: Tiny, uniform grain and a satin effect
Feel: Waxy
Hand: Supple, full and responsive
Change over time: Becomes satiny and more supple

 

Lechyd Da!

First stop of the day: Cilgerran Castle, a 13th-century ruined castle located in Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire, Wales, near Cardigan. According to Wikipedia, the first castle on the site was thought to be built by Gerald of Windsor around 1110–1115, and it changed hands several times over the following century between English and Welsh forces.

No one’s here today so we roam at leisure, wondering if there are any ghosts.

Croeso! Welcome to Aberystwyth!IMG-0529

Before we explore, we check in to our hotel.

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The Conrah Hotel (originally named Ffosrhydgaled, aka “ditch”!) is a beautiful Edwardian mansion, constructed circa 1850 on the site of a farmstead, stables, outhouses and watermill.

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Following a devastating fire in 1911, it is reported that the owner, a Mr. Davies, spent considerable time arguing with his insurance company over where the new house should be built. Davies wished to demolish what was left of the house and re-erect the property in a more elevated position to improve his view, whereas the insurance company refused to allow this due to the increased cost of re-siting the property. Needless to say, the insurers won and the property was rebuilt on the same site.

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I’d kill for this stained glass.

It remained a private home until 1967, when new owners Constance and Ronald Alfred Hughes converted it to a hotel. The couple had made their money locally, manufacturing ‘Conrah’ vases, table settings and similar items from pressed metals (“Co” for Constance + Ronald’s initials RAH), hence the name change.

Gardens and public assembly rooms first attracted wealthy travelers, and in 1800 a new bathhouse provided “respectable visitors” the opportunity to bathe in heated seawater.  Within a few years, bathing machines offered the chance to venture into the sea itself, and guesthouses sprang up to cater to an increasing number of tourists.
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This shop could be owned by one of my husband’s many Welsh relatives of the same name.

The pier was built in 1865 and by the early 1900’s Aberystwyth boasted a large pavilion, railway, theatres, cinemas and concert halls.  By the 1950’s, it was well established as a seaside holiday destination.
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Dinner tonight is with DH’s cousins, who are warm and welcoming. The husband is an ardent Welsh nationalist, so we keep the Brexit discussion short. (Luckily, we don’t have a dog in this fight.)
We learn that a popular toast is “Lechyd da” (Le-chid-ya), which is easier for me to remember than “lloniannau”, or “cheers”.  The pronunciation is close to the Hebrew toast “L’chaim” (“to life”), which supports a theory that the lost tribes of Israel wound up in Wales.
The following morning, we head off to Bath.  I love this bridge — very Hermès, non?!
IMG-0552 (1)Arriving in Bath, our 17th century hotel (Paradise House) looks unimpressive from the outside, and parking in its tiny driveway is precarious, but it’s quite lovely inside. We’re treated to a delicious tea while the room is readied. Would definitely stay here again!
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The town center is an easy walk from the Paradise.  Bath is known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. Many of the buildings feature local honey-gold stone, including Bath Abbey, famed for its large stained-glass windows, fan-vaulting, and tower.
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The museum at the site of the original Roman-era Baths includes The Great Bath, statues (a later addition) and a temple.
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There’s a lot to see but we have only one day, so we concentrate on the Baths, a long walk to get a sense of the town, and the Jane Austen museum.

The Baths are well worth the trip, with wonderful depictions of Roman life “back in the day” and many artifacts.

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The Austen museum, however, is kind of a bust — costumed guides tell you about her family history (Austen didn’t spend a lot of time in Bath, as it turns out) but this is best visited by the true enthusiast.

Our stroll takes us to the Royal Crescent, very glamorous.

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And I loved this wonderful old-timey chemist’s shop.

IMG-0591 (1).JPGWe wrap up the day with an excellent meal at Clayton’s Kitchen. Linguine with crab is fresh and delicious.

Tomorrow it’s back to Devon, where we’ll make a major decision….

Mid-October, 2018.