Inside the Hermès Odyssey 2021 theme dinner. Stage direction Pauline Bayle and Scenography Fanny Laplane. Courtesy Hermès
The biannual Paris Fashion Week ready-to-wear season unofficially began a few days prior with the Paris Ballet Gala. While the gala is by no means part of the show schedule, for this high art evening, the dancers tutus are signed la maison Chanel, its audience is filled with celebrities, and, after the ballet, a delectable menu of 750 rare blue lobsters served in the halls of the Palais Garnier. The gala sets the proverbial bar high, some would say its artistic flair is quite well out of earthly reach.
For this feast, your reporter was seated next to French-Algerian choreographer Mehdi Kerkouche, a savvy placement on behalf of Alison Chekar, the driver behind the l’AROP, which organized the night’s sparkling affair. The following day, Manuel Arnaut, editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia acquiesced to a last minute feature, and Kerkouche thus graces the pages of the biannual Vogue Man Arabia issue introducing his company EMKA to the Gulf.
Inside the Hermès Odyssey 2021 theme dinner. Choreography by Mehdi Kerkouche. Courtesy Hermès
Fashion week unraveled with particular bravura, from the Saint Laurent spectacle of Havana meets Eiffel to the Nineties-inspired Chanel runway at the ephemeral Grand Palais, and conference calls with Dubai from a suite at the newly opened Cheval Blanc hotel overlooking the Seine River. It closed, unofficially, the day after the last show with Hermès, which announced, as it does every year, its annual theme—Odyssey.
Tables were set on a winding wood boardwalk surrounded by water. Look up and around, and the blacked out set was sprinkled with stars. Hermès was on a mission to strip back the senses. Start again with founding principles—wood, water, light, and dreams. The evening would offer a culinary feast signed multi-star French chef Jean-François Piège, thought-provoking monologues delivered by César award-winning actor Jeanne Balibar, and personal memoirs shared by Hermès artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas.
Looking down at the plate offering a sumptuous blue lobster, decidedly, the fashion week extravaganza would end just as it had started. Suddenly, the pounding on the percussions by musician Lucie Antunes began to crescendo. It was a welcome beat, Antunes had animated the entire evening and the audience was delighted. And then, a splash! The waters had filled with dancers in electric blue garb; their swift movements absorbing the black space, and its surprised guests right along with them. “Who is the choreographer?!” exclaimed the journalists at the table. Searching through the credits the fingers stopped at a name in fine print. “Et voilà,” pronounced a guest, “Choréographie: Mehdi Kerkouche.” An odyssey is defined as a long and adventurous journey. Only the pilgrim can decide if it will be one of excellence or mediocrity.
Vogue Arabia features director Caterina Minthe with choreographer and dancer Mehdi Kerkouche at the Paris Ballet Gala dinner.
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