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10• Hermès Symbiose line created by Marie-Pierre Bernard - Himalaya flagbag from the Symbiose Coll.

Marie-Pierre Bernard is the designer who created the Himalaya bag for Hermès, in the Symbiose Collection, for which she designed each piece. The Symbiose Line, created in 1986, brings together twelve bags recognisable by their original character. These are ceremonial bags with a surrealist design. The Himalaya bag, flagbag of the Collection, has a double attraction: it will be the unusual handbag for fashionistas or the sculpture bag to be placed on a piece of furniture for art lovers, because it is indeed a work of art. It goes without saying that both options are compatible.

Marie-Pierre Bernard is the daughter of the famous car manufacturer Pierre Bernard.

Himalaya bag Hermès line Symbiose - Unique autographed model, presented in its display case specially designed by Marie-Pierre Bernard

Pierre Bernard (1922-1991)

Pierre Bernard, a car manufacturer, is considered one of the greatest patrons of futuristic architecture. He financed the research of Antti Lovag, this Hungarian architect with a creative madness, very much ahead of his time. We owe him the Palais Bulles in Théoule-sur-Mer, a 1200m2 villa originally designed for Pierre Bernard, which Pierre Cardin bought when the latter died in 1991.

Marie-Pierre Bernard

The young woman, a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Lyon in the architecture-sculpture discipline, has all the assets to create, with method and mastery, in total freedom of expression. She will not be denied.

Marie-Pierre Bernard has this discreet and mysterious beauty that intrigues and questions. She shows herself little and the sunken face we know of her is that of a pensive person, perhaps also preoccupied.

Her daring creations for the Hermès Collection were greeted with "awe", like Picasso's first works. They are now collector's items in the history of the 20th century handbag. 

In 1982, Marie-Pierre Bernard expressed her desire to launch herself into haute couture. Her father, Pierre Bernard, who was passionate about art in all its forms, encouraged her and agreed that his Group would finance his daughter's creative and promising desires. This is how a large workshop-boutique opened at 177 avenue du Maine in Paris under the sign "Pour Échanger Quelques Mots". The façade, decorated with a spectacular trompe-l'oeil by Fabio Rieti, is like a wink, which speaks volumes about the personality of the owner of the establishment.

First and last collection of Marie-Pierre Bernard

Marie-Pierre Bernard's first collection, made in the rarest skins, is inaugurated in the presence of an observant Tout-Paris, in her studio on the Avenue du Maine. The designer did not need a sympathetic clientele, success was at her doorstep, all the pieces presented found takers.

It is quite naturally that the designer prepares, with joy in her heart, her second collection. Inspiration does not wait to manifest itself. She works with a passion and a desire that no one can curb. She applies herself and does not count the long working days that invade her life. She works to make everything perfect.

This second collection, conceived and worked on with an immense desire to succeed solemnly, will not see the light of day.

Indeed, her father, Pierre Bernard, had to give up the management of the Bernard Group for health reasons, leaving it to his son Jean-Patrice and their half-sister. And then everything became complicated for Marie-Pierre. The heirs decide to close the workshop on the Avenue du Maine "without notice".

Marie-Pierre Bernard was left speechless and plunged into deep distress. Her father tries in vain to mediate with the new management, but Jean-Patrice Bernard, the new boss, remains inflexible.

After "To exchange a few words"

In an attempt to get out of her depressed state, her husband suggested that she contact fashion houses with which she could collaborate. Her first thought was Hermès, but in its 150-year history, Hermès had never entrusted the creation of its leather goods to an outside designer!

You just have to believe! is not a bad thought.

While her brother's employees dismantled the trompe-l'oeil in Rieti, moved the entire workshop and ruthlessly dismissed the staff, Marie-Pierre Bernard was confined in great despair.

And it was at this moment that Cyrano de Bergerac intervened. You will understand.

Marie-Pierre Bernard's husband, a writer, has the ability to turn perilous situations around. He puts himself in Christian de Neuvillette's shoes and writes a letter to Roxane (Jean-Louis Dumas, then President of Hermès). Once the letter has been posted, it is enough to believe in it to stir up positive thoughts.

Marie-Pierre, watching for the postman, recognises the Hermès logo on the ivory-coloured matt paper envelope in her letterbox. Her heart is beating fast. Weakened by events, she does not dare open it, convinced that the reply is a courtesy. She waits for her husband to return so that he can read the letter and tell her the news himself, with care.

Her husband reads the letter aloud after reading it.

Marie-Pierre is delighted. Jean-Louis Dumas tells her in his beautiful handwriting that every time he walked down Avenue du Maine on his way back from the airport, he looked at the trompe l'oeil in Rieti. So much so that he had gone into the shop to stroll around and had admired the originality of the leather work on the models on display. The letter ended with an invitation to come and show him all his conceptual work.

Arrival at Hermès

After several meetings and passionate debates on creativity in fashion and leather goods, Jean-Louis Dumas gave Marie-Pierre Bernard carte blanche to design a collection of bags in three months. However, he expressed reservations, insisting that the design should not deviate from the Hermès style.

Marie-Pierre Bernard worked on projects. Then, as the deadline approached, she asked her husband what he thought of her designs. She would not regret it.

Her husband frankly told her his position and complained that he had taken J.L.D.'s recommendation to the letter: "the design should not deviate from the Hermès style". Restrained by this "threat", M.P. Bernard was unable to express herself according to her emotional and creative inspirations. In fact, she is not as satisfied with her work as she should be.

Recognising that her attempts were not exciting, she tore up her drawings to go back to the ideas that were galloping in her imagination and there the royal road opened up to her. She had to be quick, the deadline was approaching! As an architect, she draws the plans as she would draw an architectural concept. The Symbiosis line is "centuries" away from the scoop or the reticule. The result is an explosion of bags with a crazy design and a shocking effect. J.LD approves and gives the name Symbiose, or Insane Classics to this Collection whose flagbag is the Himalaya bag.

At the top of long efforts... the Himalayas

This is the only Hermès bag, named Himalaya. It was designed by Marie-Pierre Bernard. The name "Himalaya" comes from the fact that when Jean Louis Dumas launched the Symbiose collection, he felt that the boldness of the design (colours, mixtures of materials, destructuring of shapes) was similar to the feat of climbing a mountain like the Himalayas. It is for this reason that the flagship model of the collection was named by Jean-Louis Dumas.

Croquis originaux

Starting with a Kelly, the designer worked on the structure of the bag, not hesitating to upset the sharp angles and to split the folded sides. The clasp that tipped over into the void kept its straps.

Kelly's metamorphosis

Press advertising

For clarification, the Birkin bag, colloquially known as the Himalaya bag, is a crocodile Birkin bag made from Tibetan skin: Himalayan crocodile niloticus skin

The sculpture work

Starting from the obvious fact that the Himalaya bag is a work of art, in this case a sculpture made up of an assembly of classic and exotic leathers that cover the structure of a handbag, Marie-Pierre Bernard has given a follow-up to the unique work of the Himalaya bag that she created and that Jean Louis Dumas offered her. It is a bit like the intimate story of the sculptor and the founder.

For the dedicated Himalaya bag, MPB designed a display case with a red lacquered metal frame with three panels where each side panel retraces the history and creation of the Himalaya bag.

Bags from the Symbiose or Insane Classics line

Symbiosis is a name that comes from the ancient Greek for "two lives together". The Symbiosis Collection includes 12 bags.

Blue Gardenia, Caroline, Comète, Himalaya, Madison, New Amsterdam, Président, Sari, Sumo,  Sumac,  Union Jack, Yorkshire

For the designer Symbiose turns codes upside down in beauty. Symmetry loses all meaning. The intermingling of colours is most welcome. Crocodiles, lizards and ostriches rub shoulders with cows and lambs. Obliques, circles, cut-outs and a wide variety of geometric shapes are enchantingly interwoven or superimposed.




Blue Gardenia

New Amsteram



Sari visual in research

Union Jack visual in research

Yorkshire visual in research

Press clippings c. 1986

Photos and original drawings, (Marie-Pierre Bernard archives)

Texts after Marie-Pierre Bernard


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