She was renowned as France’s most celebrated window dresser and left an enduring legacy of artistic enchantment. Learn more about her remarkable career and contributions.
Born in 1927 in Tunis, Tunisia, Leïla Menchari began her artistic journey as a painter at the Tunis Institute of Fine Arts before furthering her studies at the prestigious Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She even worked as a model for the renowned designer Guy Laroche. In 1961, she joined the Hermès team, becoming an integral part of Annie Beaumel’s decoration team.
Menchari’s extraordinary talent found its canvas at the Hermès flagship store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where she transformed window displays into captivating works of art starting in 1978. Over the years, her imaginative creations became legendary, enchanting countless visitors.
Her windows were a testament to her creativity, featuring silver Rajasthan fantasies with princely thrones and gilded saddles, Moorish cavalry officer tents, and even golden crystal-winged horses leaping from giant purple gemstones, surrounded by matching Kelly bags. Her artistry extended to crafting Big Game Hunter safari windows adorned with giant wooden elephants and Ashanti masks.
Her impact on the fashion world was profound. Axel Dumas, CEO of Hermès, praised her for bringing exoticism to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Until her retirement in 2013, Menchari’s window unveilings were celebrated four times a year, drawing crowds of admirers.
In 2017, an exhibition titled «Hermès à tire-d’aile – les Mondes de Leïla Menchari» at the Grand Palais paid tribute to her visionary work, introducing her unique universe to a new generation.
Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès Artistic Director, expressed deep gratitude for Menchari’s contributions. Her artistic style seamlessly blended Mediterranean influences, reflecting her unwavering passion for beauty, craftsmanship, and creativity.
At the Grand Palais exhibition, Hermès collaborated with scenographer Nathalie Crinière to showcase eight massive window tableaux, highlighting Menchari’s exceptional talent. These displays ranged from ethereal Arcimboldo-inspired settings to a stunning steel and leather stallion with a meticulously crafted leather space cowboy saddle.
During the exhibition’s opening, Menchari shared her design philosophy: «Windows are a method of telling a story. Each window is a little theater, but more challenging than a stage, as there is no text or movement. So, one has to become a designer, painter, composer, and director to create a remarkable window. It’s that simple.»
Leïla Menchari’s influence on the world of fashion and design is immeasurable, and her legacy will forever be celebrated as a master of the art of window dressing.