Eating your greens takes on new meaning at Hermes, which has just launched a new tableware collection that looks as if a tropical forest just took root on your dining table.
A profusion of leaves on a presentation plate looks so vivid and real you’re afraid that they will float away if you blow at them. A leaf and flower-covered teapot seems to reveal what’s brewing inside of it. But the glowing luminosity of Limoges porcelain belies the effort behind the vivid drawings and hues derived from a palette of more than 32 colours, and the 2,000 hours required to create this exquisite ode to nature.
Hermes’ Passifolia table setting is a Garden of Eden-inspired range by designer Nathalie Rolland-Huckel, and marks her third collection for the luxury house.
For the nature lover, it was a no brainer decision to design Passifolia after Benoit-Pierre Emery – creative director at Objets et La Table at Hermes – broached the idea with her.
“He started by telling me a story about walking through mysterious forests, with exotic flowers, luxuriant nature and a rich palette of colours, emphasising the poetic and imaginary aspect,” says Rolland-Huckel in an e-mail interview.
“This resonated with me immensely.”
“For each of our collections, we call on unique talents that can resonate with Hermes,” notes Emery by e-mail, of his choice of designer. “These different talents all share a certain sincerity in their approach, which is often combined with great humility. This particular quality is essential to create a fruitful creative exchange and generate a creation that is in harmony with the spirit of the house.
“As for Nathalie Rolland-Huckel, she knew the house very well, having already designed table services for Hermes. We wanted to tell a new story on porcelain with her. When we spoke about this theme of tropical nature, knowing Nathalie’s passion for nature, her sensitivity and her acuity in transcribing every detail, (the decision) quickly seemed obvious!”
Because they wanted to capture the essence of Nature in as free and unencumbered way as possible, Rolland-Huckel was given a free hand to create her drawings. She worked in her studio surrounded by plants and photographs.
”I approached it as a painter,” she says, with the freedom that comes with creativity. She started out with pencil sketches that, when she was satisfied, she would trace the outline with a sepia-coloured brush. She would then painstakingly fill in the drawings with colours – a long, laborious process.
“Passifolia has 32 colours, more than any of the other services, which requires exceptional precision in overlaying the colours and a mastery of enamels cooked at high temperatures, of which only Hermes has the expertise.”
There are 30 pieces in all, comprising large platters, plates, teapots and cups, all of which emblazoned in the colours of the jungle and deep, floral hues. Each piece is designed to hold its own, and can be appreciated as an individual objet d’art but yet be able to fit in with the rest of the collection.
That’s why, if you’re a first-timer to Hermes, there’s no pressure to buy a complete set from the start.
“The great thing about porcelain is that you can buy yourself a small piece to start with and have fun!” says Emery. “I have on my desk one of the first prototypes of a small bowl for the Passifolia collection. It’s a small piece that fills me with happiness every day when I look at it. By acquiring the first piece of this service, it’s like having a small part of tropical nature and you can build up a larger collection that can be completed during the seasons. Or you can start with the minimalist dinner plates and then add on the more luxuriant dessert plates, for example.”
Emery has been the creative director of Hermes tableware since 2013 and has himself designed two collections (Mosaique au 24 and Rallye 24 with his friend Damian O’Sullivan).
“(Rallye 24) reinforced the idea that it was important to develop new shapes and focus on design, in order to create a perfect harmony between the form and graphic decor.”
Strong, graphic styles make up the identity of La Table Hermes, which is why he continues to work with new artists to create a more contemporary dynamic for the house’s collections.
Every table service tells a story but no matter what it is, exceptional detail and craftsmanship are imperative.
“What drives us each day is to find the right note and the best balance for each new collection,” says Emery.
This article first appeared in The Business Times.