Stethoscopes, bones, skin. These are not the usual inspirations one hears about in high jewellery. Most designers take inspiration from pretty flora and fauna.
But it’s those influences – raw, unexpected and a little morbid – that give Hermes’ latest high jewellery collection Lignes Sensibles (“sensitive lines” in French) a distinctive edge. Starting July 29 until August 22, the 45-piece collection will be available for viewing at the Hermes Liat Towers boutique via appointment only (tel: 6933 3222).
Speaking to The Peak from Paris via video link before the exhibition, Pierre Hardy, creative director for shoes and jewellery, affirms that his aim for the collection was to “reverse how people typically think about jewellery”.
He says: “Usually, jewellery is like decoration, something you put on that shines and helps you present yourself in the best way. There is always something demonstrative about it. With this collection, I wanted to consider how you feel when you wear a piece of jewellery. Some days you want to be discreet and others, you want to feel strong.”
He continues: “I also wanted the jewellery to be like an interface or a bridge between you and the outside world. Some pieces are almost like little tools, like a stethoscope, which capture vibes or sensations. It was an intimate way of thinking – I want to make you feel more sensitive and make people more sensitive to you because of the piece you’re wearing.”
A necklace from the A l’Ecoute set – one of five that make up the Lignes Sensibles collection – looks like a fancy cross between an electric circuit and a stethoscope.
The diamond-set rose gold necklace forms a pathway lit up (figuratively) with a mix of stones, including three large green-yellow prehnite cabochons, an 8.3-carat blue-grey sapphire cabochon and tourmalines of different colours and sizes.
Despite the firm lines, its construction is a lot less rigid than its appearance suggests, allowing the necklace to lie comfortably against the body. Even if you cannot imagine how it is conveying your innermost feelings to the outside world, this unusual piece will have people wanting to start conversations with you.
When you’re feeling tough and want what you are wearing to reflect that, Hardy recommends the Hermes Faire Corps cuff, his favourite piece from the collection. It’s made from satin-brushed rose gold with a large cut-out at the bottom and set with five large, smooth cabochons: three rutilated quartz, one pink quartz and an orange moonstone.
Explaining his fondness for it, Hardy uses an analogy one would expect from a designer who remains most synonymous with shoe design. Aside from overseeing footwear at Hermes since 1990, he also has his eponymous shoe brand.
“I think it’s very strong. It’s like an enormous pair of boots,” he says with a smile. “It gives you strength and helps you feel more confident and powerful. I think this strength is one facet of the Hermes woman. But what I like most about this collection is that it conveys many types of feelings.”
When you’re in the mood for something softer and subtler – but still as spectacular – there is the Contre La Peau necklace with a matching bracelet. A fine lattice of rose gold set with white diamonds, the pieces are incredibly articulated and supple.
The necklace conforms to the contours of your neck and collarbone when worn, thanks to a fluidity made possible by an unusual construction whereby tiny triangles of gold are linked with chatons set with diamonds.
This necklace is also the perfect example of how the making, rather than just the materials, sets Hermes jewellery apart from those by traditional haute joaillerie brands.
While Hardy uses large precious stones in his pieces, they are seldom the principal attraction. He estimates that just the conceptualisation of the design and structure of the Contre La Peau necklace probably took about six months.
“As a designer, I love to draw, but I couldn’t draw this piece because I didn’t know the exact shape it would take and how it could be made. I wanted something invisible, that was like a fishnet or a veil, and would merge with the body and the skin,” he says.
“It was a long process to develop the right articulation and the right mounting so that it would almost look like a knit. Because it’s so soft and weightless, it could adapt to any part of the body. We could even make a suit or a complete ‘second skin’.”
It epitomises Hermes’ signature blend of elegance and ease, which is a philosophy that Hardy lives by as well. He says: “My job is to make ergonomics beautiful. With earrings, for example, weight is important. There comes a point when it hurts and also becomes ugly.”
He adds: “As a designer, I have to consider all those limits. Today, women want to look beautiful but also cool, and not hurt themselves. To work with the body and to convey that ease, I think that’s a sign of modernity.”