Beauty & The Beat
In my column, I feature the latest and greatest products that highlight cosmetic beauty. However, as we enter the new year, what about digging deeper and spotlighting our inner elegance?
I believe an "attitude of gratitude" is the cornerstone of our individual allure. Truly we all live in constant chaos, but we must remind ourselves to search for the blessing in the storm, and be thankful for the amazing people and situations in our lives.
Before you peg me as a "Pollyanna," allow me to elaborate. This past year has been a time of major upheaval, as my family has experienced more than our share of peaks and valleys. In attempting to remain centered, I reflect upon a lesson in inner beauty from my former boss, Jean-Louis Dumas.
Mr. Dumas was chairman of Hermès of Paris, the iconic French luxury goods purveyor and a fourth generation Hermès family member. Sadly, Mr. Dumas passed on last May at age 72. He was also the creative force behind a little phenomenon called the Birkin bag, named for an English-born actress Jane Birkin, who gave him the idea for her ideal handbag after a chance encounter on an airplane.
Yet, it's not about the Birkin.
Certainly Mr. Dumas was a creative marketing genius. He was so animated, so completely full of life, so amazingly inspired by his surroundings. He constantly noted his insights, his plentiful ideas and drew cartoon-style inspiration in his ever present Hermès agendas. His kind expressive eyes radiated childlike wonder and enthusiasm, and his character was very much like Roberto Bernini's in the movie, Life is Beautiful.
Before marriage and family, I served as managing director of the Dallas Hermès Boutique. The staff and I were preparing for a landmark store anniversary celebration, and many of the Hermès family members were attending, including Mr. Dumas. Just before the colorful French family descended upon Dallas, a celebrity client paid our Highland Park boutique a visit. It was legendary chef, Julia Child. She burst into the store and in her characteristic falsetto voice inquired if we had the " Glory to French Cuisine" scarf.
Shocked and awed, we scrambled to the scarf counter, where Child towered over us, patiently observing as we pulled out all of the various color waves for this particular design. "To the Glory of French Cuisine," a classic Hermès scarf pattern reissued for fall 1989, depicted an illustrated menu of various French delicacies. She quickly and expertly chose a design with a green background. Truly, she was a delightful customer.
Naturally, Mr. Dumas would inquire about what was selling in the store. I was proud to tell him about our latest celebrity client. Immediately, I noticed that he was visibly touched that Child specifically requested this scarf. He asked me if I knew the story behind the scarf's design. I did not know this particular tale, but I had worked for Hermès long enough to know that everythingchez Hermès had a story.
Customers relished the design histories behind these luxurious products, such as the Kelly Bag, named after Grace Kelly, as she used her Hermès handbag to conceal her pregnancy from the press, or relay the tale of the "Regina" scarf, a design tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, portraying different flowers representing the countries comprising the United Kingdom.
The Hermès chairman selected one of the A La Gloire de La Cuisine Française scarves from the counter and pointed out his father's signature in the lower left-hand corner. He explained that his father, Robert Dumas, who preceded him as Hermès chairman, had designed this scarf during the Nazi occupation of France. The senior Dumas created the design as a metaphor representing perserverence through the extreme hardships endured during World War II.
The scarf portrays an illustrated list of Robert Dumas' favorite French delicacies that eluded them under the Nazi regime. Originally Hermès produced the design in 1942 as a beacon of hope that someday the French people would regain their freedom, reunite war-torn families and together enjoy these relished French foods once again. My boss said that he had this scarf reprinted in 1989 in tribute to his deceased father, thankful for his dad's perseverance and the honor to continue the family tradition of guiding their business through the next generation.
This impressive encounter resonated strongly with me. Mr. Dumas, head of this phenomenally successful company, who certainly obtained everything possible in this physical world, was clearly emotional in expressing his gratitude.
A few weeks later, I recieved a package from the Hermès flagship store, 24 rue Saint-Honoré, Paris. Inside was an orange square Hermès box elegantly wrapped in their eponymous brown ribbon. As I pulled back the crinkly "H" embossed tissue paper, I discovered the beautiful A La Gloire de La Cuisine Française scarf, in the exact green background as the one Child had chosen.
Also enclosed was a picture taken of the Hermès family and me the night of the Dallas anniverary soirée and a personally written note from Mr. Dumas, that read, "Always be thankful."
To this day, this meaningful scarf hangs framed in my family dining room; its presence reminds us to be thankful for life's gifts.
Thank you, Mr. Dumas. I will always count you among my blessings.