“Flattery? Flannel…? Sorry, I don’t think I know this word”, I blubbered, pausing Pauline mid-sentence as she began to explain the inseparable nature of Hermès and the art of flânerie over one eggy breakfast at Berners Tavern. What a funny word. Turns out it’s one of those untranslatable foreign words that mean a multitude of things in English yet is so satisfyingly encompassing when you finally understand exactly what it is. A complex word, like love, or sort of like when girls say ‘fine’ to their boyfriends during a quarrel.
I’d like to think that I’ve had my own versions of that word before learning of it. Maybe that time when I was 12 and obsessed with aimlessly rollerblading around the neighbourhood alone, imaginings different lives in the houses I passed by – that was called ‘mum I’m going out with friends’ (usually met by ‘what friends? you don’t have any friends’). In uni I befriended Ellen, a fellow flâneur – and it’d take one of us to simply cock a head towards a back street and that was code for ‘we’re not going home anytime soon’. We ambled, wandered and strolled the streets of London, unconsciously categorising quirks and novelties of the city as we happened on them.
Fast forward to now, in the city that birthed the very word – Paris. It was much the same but a different enjoyment, learning the art of being a flâneur with the true master in its art, Hermès. We, along with Susie Bubble, set out from Palais Royal and meandered through time-worn galleries and under ornate, covered passageways from the 18th century; from 1st Arrondissement to the 9th, losing all sense of time and rejoicing in the lack of an objective. Or at least until our stomachs started a to-do list and put itself at the very top, which we promptly ticked off at Caffe Stern, an engraving-shop-turned-Venetian-restaurant (by David Lanher and designed by Philippe Starck).
While I do attest to the fact that digital ‘wandering’ so totally can be a thing, and unearthing a good cat video as rewarding as finding a peculiar object off the street, true flanerie is defined by disconnecting oneself from the usual pace, and occupying with time, child-like curiosity and a discerning eye – all-in-all a luxury to be earned, even saved-up for. These values define Hermès, and therefore a perfect fit for the theme of the year and annual exhibition*. As we joined up with the bustle of the real world at the end of Passage Verdeau, a rather special treat awaited… stay tuned for part 2!
*Hermès Wanderland exhibition; 9th April to 2nd May; Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY. Open 10am-6pm daily. Free entrance.
Coat – Dagmar. Bag – Monsieur Gavriel. Trousers – Zara. Shoes – Acne ‘Jensen’