By Maria Doulton in London
"Don't do Place Vendôme" was the sole instruction issued to designer Pierre Hardy by the late CEO Jean-Louis Dumas, who commissioned him to create the first collection of Hermès fine jewellery six years ago.
Hardy had been designing shoes for Hermès for over two decades when he was asked, out of the blue, to try his hand at jewels. Having breathed the air of Hermès for so very long, he was confident he knew what the brand was all about, setting him on the path to dreaming up Hermès jewellery.
Dumas' pithy message, which warned Hardy to steer clear of the traditional approach to high jewellery, rings out loud and clear in the latest jewels presented by Hermès this September, of which Brides de Gala is one of three new sets.
For starters, Hermès playfully refers to them as "haute bijouterie", knocking any possible stuffiness or conformity out of their very name. And secondly, a strong equine theme runs through the new Brides de Gala jewels, as it does with earlier collections, such as the Centaure.
Those versed in the lore of Hermès will immediately spot that the Brides de Gala theme revisits the early days of Hermès, which started life making bridles, harnesses and saddles for the Parisian horseman and his carriage.
The elegant geometry of the components refers back to a famous silk scarf of the same name. "I started looking at them all," says Hardy. "Many of them are like still lifes - symmetrically structured." You can clearly see this pleasing arrangement in the new Hermès jewellery collection. What's more, each is made with such minute attention to detail that they even move like silk.
With Brides de Gala, Hardy's original mind has reworked the components of a horse's headgear into a jewel: the main necklace is made up of a golden and diamond-encrusted horse's tack. Suede straps, a bit, noseband, snaffle, headstall and even a throat-latch become golden, diamond-set jewels. They can be worn in different ways - draped down the back like a scarf, layered or single or strapped around the head. Removed from the horse, the bridle now rests languidly, ready to drape on the body. And all this from Pierre Hardy, a man who confesses to being allergic to horses.