Ask anyone who worked in the Australian style media or on the high-stakes VIP party scene five years ago who sent the most sought-after invite of the year and they’d have all have shot back the same quick answer: Hermès.
Back then, the luxury fashion house hosted its exclusive, star-studded soiree for several years in a row on the Sydney Harbour-front beach at Nelson Park, the mise en scène as much a drawcard as the luxurious French champagne and postcard view.
“After all, it’s not often you go to a style-centric party offering a shoe concierge after the red carpet.”
So news that the brand was bringing back its famous beach extravaganza had us all in a spin. What we didn’t expect was for it to bring the beach to the urban industrial bunker (turned art space) better known as Carriageworks.
It’s a venue most of us in the Aussie fashion world know intimately, given its raw steel and bare concrete has been the home of Mercedes-Benz Australia Fashion Week for several years now. For those, myself included, working 12-hour days at the shows and in the media centre set up at its heart, the venue practically becomes our primary residence that week.
But that same stark, cold-feeling space was just given pinnacle of all edgy fashion make-overs. Never one to do anything by half or sans style, Hermès trucked in 350 tonnes of local sand, a retro-style surf club set complete with silk scarf flags, three 4-metre high inflatable sea horses and 120 talent and wait staff dressed in ‘70s Cali skater style to get the party started.
From the moment we stepped onto the long rainbow-striped ‘red’ carpet outside, we knew we were in for a wild ride. Stepping through a pink flocked carriage, we made meandered through social media opportunity nirvana – an entry tunnel lined with a graphic design by Nigel Peake (pictured at top) that just begged to be ‘grammed – then on to the ‘shoecierge’ ideally placed metres from the giant sand-filled party venue entry.
Walking past cocktail-clasping guests reclined on striped deck chairs as they delved into a virtual reality surf experience, we hit a 30-metre-long screen showing 50 hours of time lapsed footage looking out to sea from a beach. (I’m told from a well-placed source it was filmed from sunrise to sunset over several days at a secluded location in Byron Bay, with no-one but a few early morning joggers to interrupt the hypnotic ambiance.)
There were beach-o-batics (acrobats in classic swimsuits putting on an ocean-inspired show), a half pipe with scarfed-up skaters riding over a projection of Hermès-print ‘graffiti’ on its surface, and even (drumroll, please) an original Mr Whippy van summonsed from Queensland to serve up dessert after 9pm.
An urban night at Hermes disguised as a day at the beach. It was a novel, brilliant, crazy idea – but as all 700 of the guests will attest, a wild success. Just pity the poor folk who had to shovel away all that sand the next day.
Photo credits: Wes Nel, Thomas Walk, Luke Latty, courtesy Hermès