“Draw me your dreams” asked Annie Beaumel, head of Hermès’ window displays, to Leïla Menchari when she arrived at 24, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The year was 1961 and Leïla Menchari was completing her course at the Beaux-Arts school in Paris after studying fine arts in Tunis, where she grew up. This was the start of Leïla Menchari’s career at Hermès. From 1978 to 2013, she imagined, designed and produced window displays for the Parisian saddle-maker, whilst simultaneously directing the Silk Colours Committee.
“I always wanted my work to be authentic and sincere,” she explains. “I have been known to be surrealistic, and I do love that, but always with real things, things that people can recognise. It had to be unexpected, unusual and surprising, and it had to engage passers-by.”
While materials are the guiding thread of this exhibition, which revives the artist’s enchanting displays, each of the eight scenes tells a story first and foremost. For Leïla Menchari is a storyteller: she recounts her dreams and her creations with Hermès’ exceptional artists and artisans, as well as tales of Tunisia or other destinations encountered on her many travels. Painters, sculptors, leather artisans, straw weavers, mosaic artists, stone-cutters and glass-blowers are just some of the numerous craftspeople who have magnificently collaborated with the artist to produce the objects and scenes of her surprising, fantastical and flamboyant windows.
In November 2017, a work entitled "Leïla Menchari, The Queen of Enchantment" will also be published jointly with Actes Sud, the Arles-based publishing house that already has a long collaboration with Hermès. Text by Michèle Gazier – 432 pages – 147 illustrations – Hardback.
About Leïla Menchari
A graduate of the Fine Arts Institute in Tunis, 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.