Imagine a giant mansion that’s home to an over-the-top, surreal carnival filled with extremely stylish guests. Downstairs, French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt watches with a glass of Champagne as two groups of men pretend to joust on fake horses. Upstairs, stylist Venetia Scott, clad in a floor-length ball gown, dances her way through an aggressive game of musical chairs. It sounds like a fever dream by a tipsy fashion fiend who spent a little too much on Instagram, but it was actually the scene at Hermès’ annual theme party.
Every year the French brand sets a theme that guides their many collections, including not just the famous scarves but also home goods and one-of-a-kind objects. For 2018, the idea was “Let’s Play!” The result: whimsical creations including a surfboard, skateboard and roller skates. It also translated to the brand’s big party, which was set in a mansion in Paris’ eighth arrondissement.
You’d think a crowd full of fashion types, predominantly clad in the brand’s scarves and twillys, would be too cool to play along with various actors at a theme party. But it was a warm, light-filled evening typical of summer in Paris, and everyone was ready to get silly. Despite the prizes being literal bags of peanuts (with a few fortune cookies thrown in for good measure), the games became unexpectedly competitive. The winners of every musical chair round that I witnessed all threw a few well-timed hip checks on their way to victory.
Luxury has a bad reputation for being stiff, but Hermès made it clear that their vision would be loud and a little campy, if still extremely glamorous. They set the tone upon entrance, with a magician and a bullhorn-toting announcer playing double-duty as greeters. That segued to the proper entrance, which was guarded by two mysterious sphinxes (and also served as the perfect Instagram backdrop.) Guests seeking the bathroom would find out later that the sphinxes were really into their characters, smiling mysteriously if anyone asked which door led to the restrooms.
And that was just the beginning. Every room was full of trippy moments: There was a corridor devoted to playing ring toss, except the pegs were actual outstretched arms. Another game involved racing remote-control cars around a windy track, while one room featured a bowling game where you gently rolled stuffed toys into their “homes” at the end of the lane. Really, you can’t take life too seriously watching a fake Yorkie knock over a bunch of wooden pins.