Je cherche ma muse

The ourangutan sits slumped at the walnut dining table. It’s obviously been a bad night. There are broken plates everywhere, stuff spilling out from the slack-hinged cabinet against the wall. The geese – they’re fucking huge, the sort of thing that could peck your eyes out just by looking at you – are still partying hard. No one knows who invited them. The camels are so high they’re eating the house plants, and the lapdogs have fashioned robes out of some cashmere scarves. There’s talk of karaoke.

Drug-fuelled hallucination? Perhaps. This was the scene in one of the windows at the newish Hermès Rive Gauche store near the Lutétia. I love me a good Hermès window. I think that if I were horrendously rich I would want to live like this, in a riot of thick woolen carpets, taxidermy and leather saddles. I’d move from room to room swaddled in silks and cashmere, rinse my teeth in Champagne, and get minions to strew dead leaves and black pearls the size of my fist on my path. I would be, in fact, Leila Menchari, the designer who has been doing Hermès’ windows since 1977.

In my unspent youth I worked at Hermès, in the flagship store on the Faubourg St Honoré. Several times a year the blinds would be drawn, the windows shielded from the prying eyes of the public. “She’s here”, we’d whisper, and there was an unspoken rule that She should not be disturbed. Apparently when Leila came she would lie in the window displays, behind the closed blinds, reclining languorously with a glass of champagne in one hand. She would say:

Je cherche ma muse.

I’m looking for my muse.

This newer store is really quite lovely, a bright open space moulded by large yurt-like structures, set against the mosaic walls of the swimming pool it used to be.

There’s a florist so you’re greeted by the sweet smell of fresh flowers when you enter, a café (completely empty when I went, cakes looked delicious from afar) and a book section that featured this gem:

Bestiaire du Gange, a ridiculously beautiful bestiary screenprinted by hand in India on thick grainy paper. More pictures here and here. I wants it. I needs it. I lusts for it, still, 10 days later. It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.

Where: Hermès Rive Gauche, 17 rue de Sèvres, Paris 6ème. Métro Sèvres-Babylone

Tip: The Hermès stores are a little bit intimidating from the outside, but  the staff is always unwaveringly friendly. If sweaty American tourists in shorts with bumbags full of crumpled euros can shop there, anyone can.

7 Responses to “Je cherche ma muse”
  1. andy says:

    I suspect these Hermès windows are pure autobiography.
    I wonder if you could get a gig at Hermès doing the audiobook version of their windows?

  2. Lisa-Marie says:

    I want to GOOOOOOO.

    Bloody Scotland. There are no posh orangutans in windows here.

    The yurtish things are nice. Much mores stylish (and I suspect with less patchouli smell) than your average yurt.

  3. alison cross says:

    That’s a shop window and a HALF! It’s like Coleridge’s drug-fuelled dreams made flesh. Or cashmere. :)

    That kind of shop intimidates me. I know that if I have to ask the price of anything, I can’t afford to shop there!

    Ali x

    • fatpony says:

      Emma made a sort of disbelieving little yelp when I dragged her in. There was terror in her eyes.
      I think it’s just like a museum: just go in to look at pretty things!

  4. In Paris last week, I walked by this very window and was confronted and confounded by an anatomically correct ourangutan’s bottom.
    Couldn’t stop laughing or looking. Hermes was closed, but I’ll remember this window. Thanks for telling the back story.

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