Dior, Hermes and Louis Vuitton participate in Flanerie Colbert Abu Dhabi
The event celebrates handmade luxury through talks, workshops and demonstrations at The Galleria, Qasr Al Hosn and Saadiyat Island until December 14
Flanerie Colbert Abu Dhabi – a celebration of French artisanship and handcraft – arrived in the capital on November 12, signalling the start of a month-long series of talks, workshops and art displays that offer a peek into the rarefied world of luxury.
Backed by Comite Colbert, the French institution dedicated to the continuation of handicraft, Flanerie is running parallel to Louvre Abu Dhabi’s lavish exhibition, 10,000 Years of Luxury, and offers a new concept for both the high-end luxury market and the region that seeks its offerings. Rather than just displaying unique pieces, the makers – the usually faceless artisans who create the objects – are on hand to explain and demonstrate their astonishing skills. Potential customers and curious visitors alike can witness the level of talent and dedication required to produce some of the world’s most covetable items. If you have ever wondered why luxury pieces are so, well, luxurious, then this series of explainers is for you.
Staged across various venues in the capital, Flanerie offers three levels of immersion. Those who like to gather knowledge while browsing the shop floor can head to The Galleria, which has in-store exhibitions that range from the quiet to the multifaceted, including a small but dazzling collection of heritage china at Louis Vuitton, and a display of Van Cleef & Arpels, Sevres and Chloe in Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewellery boutique. Fashion house Chloe displays an original dress from Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure at the brand, which hangs alongside a contemporary design by current head designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi, as bold ceramics from porcelain master Sevres sit in the window.
Elsewhere, Dior has created a window display that combines Baccarat chandeliers with cut-paper artwork based on the floral print from the latest resort 2020 collection, while Christofle has teemed up with perfume house Guerlain to create a jungled cabana with a table setting most of us can only dream of.
ne of the most impressive presentations at Flanerie is from Hermes, with a site-specific art space that features exquisite silver cutlery by Puiforcat dancing on threads hanging from the ceiling, rising and falling like waves, while handmade shoes by John Lobb miraculously walk on thin air.
As the only brand to not have an existing retail space within The Galleria, Hermes’s insistence on being involved gives insight to the scale and merit of this event. Having been founded as a saddle-maker, it is only natural that the maison has brought over one of its master saddle-makers to carefully explain every step, while hand-stitching thick layers of leather. If you have ever wondered why an Hermes saddle is so expensive, the 37 hours of handwork by this man offers some explanation.
For the more hands-on student of luxury, a trip to the second venue, The Artisans House at Qasr Al Hosn, is a must. Alongside traditional Emirati Al Sadu weaving, the curious can try their hand at embroidery for Lesage, one of Paris’s most esteemed houses that has worked with the likes of Chanel, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen for decades. Held taut on a frame, a fabric sits already partly covered with dense and three-dimensional gold beading, to which visitors are encouraged to contribute. This same piece was earlier in the day described by Hubert Barrere, artistic director of the house, as being his “Abu Dhabi dream, surrounded by light, water and gold, just like the beautiful city”.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Flanerie event is the drawing together between French and Emirati culture. Cases in point: a conversation focusing on the dual roles chocolate and gahwa (Arabic coffee) play in cultural hospitality, and a talk entitled Sophisticated Threads, about the sensory importance of Guerlain perfumes and talli (Emirati gilt weaving). Unique French history, too, will be highlighted at the House of Artisans, including a talk by the president of the Palace of Versailles, Catherine Pegard, on the building’s unique heritage, and the savoir faire of Limoges ceramics explained by its communications director Helene Huret.
If this weren’t enough, a third element of Flanerie takes place on Saadiyat Island, with talks on everything from the couture history of Dior, explained by its chief executive Alexandre Boquel, to the importance of commissioning modern artists and artisans by the directors of the Hermes Foundation.
Flanerie Colbert Abu Dhabi runs until Saturday, December 14. The timetable of events is here.
Updated: November 13, 2019 06:51 PM