Vogue- “I try to maintain visions that only the power of dreams can suggest. To lift myself above the frontiers of the rational, to go beyond the visible.” So said the late, great Leïla Menchari, the maestro of window-dressing whose work for Hermès between 1977 and 2013 was nothing short of spellbinding.
For Menchari, creating a window display was about telling a wonderfully imaginative story. It helped that her own narrative – that of a barefoot Tunisian wild child who became the first woman admitted to the Beaux-Arts institute in Tunis and eventually rose to the giddy heights of Parisian society, presiding over the windows of 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré – was akin to the plot of a particularly far-fetched Hollywood movie. She joined Hermès in 1961, under the tutelage of the Head of Windows Annie Beaumel, and quickly set about asserting her taste, eventually filling the windows with Birkins made of metal, Kellys rendered in organdie.
The subject of an exhibition in Paris several years ago, the esteem in which she was held at Hermès was almost unparalleled. “Many of us at Hermès have learned a lot from Leïla. She taught us to look at the world through the prism of colour. She was a storyteller without equal that enchanted the world. We are infinitely grateful to her for all that she has done for us, that she passed on to us”, said Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès, on the occasion of her death, on 4 April 2020.
In memoriam, Vogue took a brief look at the most magical windows created for Hermès under Mencharis exacting eye.