Tag Archives: hermes

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

File:Hermès-1923.jpg

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!

IMG-1363

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

 

Bragging Rights

The other day I was called out in an online forum for daring to suggest that many women’s obsession with Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags is related to their exclusivity and expense. The writer was affronted and claimed that she only loved her Kelly because it “fit [her] style.”

Hmmm; color me skeptical. You can’t tell me that any number of ladylike bags wouldn’t be equally suitable for her life and wardrobe.

There’s nothing wrong with conspicuous consumption or searching out something exclusive, assuming you don’t have to sell a kidney to afford it. But for heaven’s sake, own it — and don’t kid yourself that you’d love “x” just as much if it were widely accessible.

Our collections can include tangible items, knowledge or experiences. Maybe your passion is finding an undiscovered indie band or movie and being the first to tell your friends about it. Or happening upon a gem of a restaurant or a less-traveled exotic destination.

You might seek out limited edition small-batch bourbon, top-of-the-line chef’s knives, up-and-coming artists, or words of wisdom from an obscure philosopher whose works haven’t received mainstream attention. Your ultimate acquisition may even be a handbag with a long history to match its price tag, which makes you feel chic even when you’re in jeans and an old sweater.

Familiarity breeds selectivity as we become better informed and more discerning. We identify ourselves – if only to our secret selves – with descriptors like “foodie”, “fitness guru”, “car maven”, “tastemaker”, “aficionado”, “intellectual”, etc.  — a shorthand for pride in our hard-earned expertise that also resonates with people who share our interests.  Isn’t it human nature to want to blend in and stand out?

I have many indulgences and intend to enjoy what I enjoy — fully, and without apology. It’s all part of the glorious fun of being alive. Still, I try to acknowledge the subtext in any purchase and be honest with the person in the mirror.

That’s what really fits my style.

Old Bags

No, not us of course!! But now that I have your attention, let’s talk about older handbags and how to maintain a long-term relationship with them.

As someone who works from home I don’t crave an extravagant wardrobe, but nice bags have always been my kryptonite. Since I fall in love constantly, I try to hold out for high quality with staying power and resist trendy one-season wonders; plus, I make it a rule to purge at least as much as I splurge.

Why do I love them? Let me count the ways:
1) Bags don’t care what size you are; they always fit
2) They’re a discreet way to schlep your life around with you
3) Good leather feels and smells yummy
4) I’m a sucker for pretty things
5) Some bags even increase in value. More on that later.

Let’s be honest: Everything we put on is a signifier and, like it or not, folks judge us by our appearance. Even demonstrating that you “don’t care” by not wearing makeup or choosing clothes that don’t fit represents a deliberate choice. People who aren’t vain about how they look are still vain about something, e.g., their intellect, achievements, or the belief that it’s better not to seem “superficial”.

In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with vanity unless it’s excessive; it’s a sign of self-respect. So, assuming you’re not taking out three mortgages to fund it, why not treat yourself to whatever gives you pleasure?

Choose wisely. Like great jeans, a black jacket and an LBD, begin with the basics: a cross-body to keep your hands free while doing errands or shopping, a roomy top handle style for business or travel, and a clutch for evening.

Don’t go too young or too old. Backpacks give off a middle school vibe unless you’re under 40 or actually hiking. Conversely, top handles skew matronly so to my eye they look more modern when worn as a counterpoint to casual clothing. However, if you work in an office, a structured bag is always professional. Think “Olivia Pope” with her classic outfits and Prada totes.

If you wear mostly neutrals, consider a bag that adds a jolt of color. You’ll get as much use out of a red bag (which goes with anything) as you will with a safe color like black, and it’s much more interesting.

Keep the relationship fresh. Nothing ruins a look faster than shoes with run-down heels or a bag that’s scuffed, faded, ripped or has lost its shape. If yours needs first aid, your local shoe repair store can usually fix zippers and broken stitches or re-dye a stained bag. For designer bags, ask the store where you purchased it if the manufacturer will repair it.

My favorite rescue strategy is to mail the bag to Leather Spa in New York. They’re not cheap but I’ve seen them work miracles and they’ll give you an estimate before they start.

Have a taste for the exotic? All leathers benefit from regular conditioning and storage (stuffed with tissue to maintain their shape) in their dust bags. If you’re lucky enough to own an ostrich, python or crocodile bag make sure it gets extra TLC.
– For natural or untreated skins, apply a light coat of waterproof spray to protect against dirt and water. Collonil makes a good one; be sure to test a small section first and spray lightly. Soaking the bag can ruin it.
– To avoid dryness, periodically wipe your bag with a slightly damp cloth and apply a conditioner made specifically for exotics. Python is more fragile than other skins.
– Avoid long-term exposure to direct heat or sunlight, as this may cause uneven fading. Exotics also scratch easily.

When to break up. Sometimes you have to move on. Ask yourself if:
– Your bag no longer makes you happy
– It’s in bad condition (cracked, faded, rubbed corners) and can’t be salvaged
– It’s just not your style
– You’ve upgraded to better quality or designers
– You have too much stuff

Time to say goodbye? Consider these options:
1) Give your treasures to a daughter, favorite relative or friend
2) Donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Vietnam Veterans of America, etc.
3) Consign the really good stuff. I’ve had great luck with Ann’s Fabulous Finds and The RealReal and hear positive things about Yoogi’s Closet. All are reputable places to buy as well, if you are interested in a “pre-owned” bag. On the resale market, classic styles from brands such as Hermès and Chanel hold their value and can even sell for more than their original price.

Is it worth it? Finally, for anyone who thinks a high-end purse is a crazy purchase, a recent study says the Hermès Birkin (the collectors’ holy grail at $13K+) has been a better long-term investment than either gold or the stock market!

Luckily for my bottom line—and my ever-tolerant husband—that particular style doesn’t float my boat. I might flirt, but deep down I know it’s only lust. The Bolide, on the other hand, might be true love.

Ode to scarves (particularly Hermès)

With all due respect to the late, great Nora Ephron, why feel bad about your neck when you have the perfect excuse to cover it up?

Camouflage is one reason to indulge in all manner of gorgeous, glorious scarves. But here are some others:

  • A scarf Frenchifies any outfit, adding a touch of glamour
  • Adding a scarf to a basic outfit looks as though you care, even when you don’t
  • You get a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks, accessory speaking

Scarves add color to my otherwise totally drab closet of neutrals. Or, in fashion-speak, jeans + plain top + 36” square of silk = “high-low” dressing.

When I first started collecting Hermès scarves I had no idea of their history, I just thought they were beautiful. For the non-obsessives among you, here’s a very brief synopsis; after all, entire books have been written on this topic!

Although the house of Hermès was established in 1837, it took 100 years before the carré (“square” in French) was created, designed by artist Hugo Grygkar in 1937.

http://carredeparis.me/2013/05/19/hugo-grygkar-the-father-of-the-carre-hermes/

Hermès issues two collections a year, along with some exclusives and re-issues of older designs. The images can be elegant, playful, simple or elaborate, with each design offered in colors ranging from primary-bright to subtle pastels and themes that include nautical, equestrian, nature and seasonal activities. This year, one of my favorites is “Paddock”, a design from the 50’s that manages to be both contemporary and nostalgic. “Brides de Gala” (decorative show bridles), a Grygkar design from 1957, is the house’s most famous scarf. According to the fact-finders at Wikipedia, it’s been produced more than 70,000 times!

Queen Elizabeth II wore an Hermès scarf in the portrait used for a 1986 British stamp, and Princess Grace Kelly wore hers on the cover of a 1956 issue of Life magazine. If that doesn’t make you feel regal, ladies, I don’t know what will!

The 36” square (90 cm x 90 cm) weighs a hefty 65 grams and will probably outlive you, your children and your grandchildren. Each hem is hand-stitched with the rolled part facing up, and don’t forget to look for the artist’s signature. Interestingly, even though Grygkar produced an estimated 100+ designs, he never signed his work. Talented and modest!

Then, there are the larger squares, shawls, oblong twillys and maxi-twillys. Doesn’t your neck deserve a thank-you for all those years of holding up your head?! And if you get tired of wearing one you can always hang it on your wall. In my book, it IS art!

For your little piece of history, check out this year’s “Brides de Gala” at www.hermes.com or scroll through the amazing images on  http://piwigo.hermesscarf.com/index?/category/Home