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.

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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.

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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.)

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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. 

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Photo credits: Wes Nel, Thomas Walk, Luke Latty, courtesy Hermès

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