Hermès pays tribute to Leïla Menchari at Paris' Grand Palais

Hermès has announced that a major exhibition will be held in Paris next autumn, focusing on the world and works of Leïla Menchari. A long-established figure at Hermès, over the course of 35 years Menchari conceived, designed and created the leather goods label's window displays. The exhibition is entitled 'Hermès à tire-d’aile - Les mondes de Leïla Menchari' (Hermès takes flight - the worlds of Leïla Menchari), and will be held at the Grand Palais from 8th November to 3rd December 2017.


A portrait of Leïla Menchari in 1985 - Photo by Edouard Boubat

 
The exhibition’s set design is by Nathalie Crinière, and will consist of eight sketches featuring Menchari's enchanting decorations, in which materials play the starring role. The exhibition is designed to immerse visitors into the artist's fantastic, poetic world. Menchari is well-known for her travels to Asia, where she unearthed the most unexpected objects.

"Painters, sculptors, leather craftsmen, weavers, mosaic-makers, stone carvers, glass-makers: a host of expert artisans worked with the designer to create the objects and decorations featured in her stunning, fantastic, flamboyant shop windows," wrote the label in a press release.
 
A graduate of the Fine Arts Institute in Tunis, Leïla Menchari then studied at the Paris National School of Fine Arts. Passionate about fabrics, she rubbed shoulders with the fashion world, and modelled for Guy Laroche. In 1961, she showed up at Hermès with her book of sketches, looking for work. Annie Beaumel, who at the time was in charge of window displays, asked her to "design her dreams."
 
It was just what the young Tunis-born artist needed to let her imagination run free. She became Annie Beaumel's assistant before succeeding her in 1978, when she also took charge of the colour committee for silk, which supervised among other things the palettes for the renowned Hermès scarves.

Four times a year, until 2013, she was tasked with the delicate mission of creating the famous shop-windows at 24, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, home to the store located at the label's historic headquarters, before the honour went to Antoine Platteau in 2014.
 
"I always wanted it to be something authentic, sincere. I happened to be a surrealist, I loved it, but always dealing with real stuff, things that people could recognise. Sometimes things had to be unexpected, unusual, surprising, they had to speak out to people," she said in the press release.
 
The book 'Leïla Menchari, la Reine Mage' (Leïla Menchari, the Magus queen), a 432-page volume with 147 illustrations written by Michèle Gazier, will be co-published with Actes Sud for the exhibition. 

 
 

Translated by Nicola Mira

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