6 Burlington Gardens, just in front of the infamous American retailer that according to Wikipedia, focuses on casual wear for consumers aged 18 to 22, and sells clothes in a retail space that would normally be confused with a nightclub and does not even require a name sign on the entrance. A shop that people actually queue to enter. But that's not the point. 6 Burlington Gardens is the place we all girls met to enjoy a very girly exhibition about leather, bags and expensive items, all at the same time. Ladies paradise for a couple of hours, located in one of the most exclusive areas of the city, that, in case needs to refresh the memory, is surrounded by Savile Road and Old Bond Street.
Advertised in full colour prints on the free distribution mags and papers daily, and of barely 15 days of duration, the cost of the entry was zero (FREE!!) and the excitement inside priceless, (well, as priceless as the bags inside).
Leather Forever. An exhibition about the famous and legendary Parisian fashion brand Hermes. To accompany the terrible name of the exhibition, that I found extremely obvious and naff, a greco-roman type of sculpture in immaculate white, standing by the stairs, had been carefully accessorised with a (also white) Kelly bag to give more 'ambiance' to the exhibition. Once in the floor, a massive and again, TACKY as hell rhino sculpture welcomed us to the entrance.
(said ostrich leather Rhino at the entrance of the Hermes' flagship in Paris -!!!-)
'You know the rules girls, right? No photos and no touching, only in the first room' said the security guard as we anxiously approached the door. Funnily enough, the fact that the warning about touching had just been made, made all of us wanting to touch every single item of the exhibition. I guess it worked just as a very clear case of reverse psychology: Don't touch - I want to touch.
Disappointed, camera on our bags, we approached the beginning of the show. A display of, by the way, touchable skins were available for us to rejoice in the world of the leather. Thick, thin, red, green, ostrich, calf skin, crocodile, snake and probably some illegal animals. First contact with the very expensive brand of legendary bags and we already started to visualise our ideal model in some of those touchable skins.
The next room, called the artisan's studio held the benches of two bag artisans and their respective tools to construct the bags. At first glance, I felt sorry for the ladies who were displayed by loads of curious females, similar to an animal in a circus. Nevertheless, the feeling of animal exploitation faded away once fluid conversations started bilaterally between spectators and the artisans. Very well explained details of the crafts and procedures of the construction, materials, tricks and all sorts were disclosed by the very amicable ladies. The game was clear: try to display the careful care and craftsmanship that require each bag, to possibly try to justify a little bit the elevated price of them. Affordable or not (definitely not affordable at all), the point was made and newfound respect for those bags grew after admiring the creation of one of them.
Next to the benches, a display of different models of handbags hanging out from ropes and pulleys started to display and cause dispute of which one to chose in case of ever having a very caring husband able to treat us with one of those.
While I was admiring a green Constance handbag and we were deciding weather it could be convenient or not because of its size, the same warning security guy came around, first to tell us off for approaching the bags too much, and then to joke about how the bags were 'green', 'blue' or 'red' (it was orange).
Clear case colour blindness, what was at first a very serious bouncer, turned out to be a chatty and sympathetic bloke that ended up following us to every single room of the exhibition, still making jokes about the colours and simple shapes of the bags. Yes, that is a square bag.
Couple of rooms after, where we found knackered bags from 1850's and an array of leathery stationary, we entered an extraordinarily dark room which housed the trick of the deal: can you differentiate a Birkin from a Kelly? Well, just when we all believed to be previously educated on the brand, as general knowledge proved by Vogue and Sex and the City, our beliefs crumbled while facing a quite generous display of both together. Ugly and beautiful, we needed one of the guides, handed by the 'funny' security guy, to finally figure out which was each, and realised that we were more confused than ever.
After the darkness, an strangely orange-lit room was set up to create a very Indiana Jones environment. Big trunks and suitcases and a long leather mackintosh was surrounded by a layer of fine beach sand. In the mood of the adventurous, we decided that the men holdall travel bags were also quite well made and that we wouldn't mind one those.
Leaving the fantasy of the sand dunes behind, we approached a very bright section. Its entrance was confusing, as it was basically a very thick layer of around half a meter of hanging leather fringes, leading to a long-haired white carpet and folded filter coffee paper on the walls(well, it wasn't, but it reminded me of it). As those hundreds of leather fringes were freely hanging from above and the fact that there was a (very tacky) coloured horse saddle, the scent of the room was quite leathery yet fishy, so we run away from it, even though we were tempted to stand barefoot on that fluffy carpet.
After a couple of rooms more in which to decided which bag to keep and playing games of guessing the year of the bag, we finally arrived to the last room, titled the 'Star Bags'. After reading the description at the anteroom, we prepared ourselves for what it was going to be the designs of the bags representatives of the United Kingdom. Being just a little corner, it consisted on a small marionette-like theatre custodied again by a guarding security guy. Probably tired of so many female admiring bags of different colours and shapes, he just stood there making sure we did not runaway with one of the pieces.
The curtain raises and an apple green, shiny snake-skin bag appears. Ok. Very obvious, Ireland. The curtain drops, and a subtle change of scenario occurs and suddenly Scotland gets unveiled: a model covered in a very obvious brown tartan. Nah, disappointing. Curtain raises again and a few miliseconds of silence happen. Unexpectedly, when fully unveiled and admired, Wales appears in its greatest splendour: the room comes to an agreement and a very loud and long 'AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW' resounds. Spontaneous clapping occurs and it is contagious to the rest of the spectators. After the appearance of the Welsh piece, the English burgundy tasted bland.
The crowd was happy, excited and they wanted more. The public screams 'encore', so they stay for more, a second round of the display. Again, another standing ovation for the Welsh, although the English survived in a well-diserved second place.
Feeling poorer and more miserable than ever for not possessing of the very expensive bags from the french 'maroquinerier', we exited the building in search for some sort of soul food to ease our pain.
As still in the mood for France, we headed to Aubaine, located in the little Heddon St. Indifferent of the wind of the corner terrace, while sharing a carrot cake, a chocolate cake and a raspberry and pistachio tart, all our thoughts of possibly saving some money to someday, be able to afford a Birkin faded away, so we started debating about the possibility of subletting our rooms for the Olympics, which is more down to Earth and beneficial but really, also won't probably happen.
Still, there is people that think it is not possible to enjoy London for free.
We even clapped!
But that's another story.