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Holt Renfrew Exhibit Gets Inside Luxury

Laurence Picot's exhibition, “LuxInside: Traces of Man,” will launch in four Holt Renfrew stores in Canada.

Laurence Picot

Ever wonder how a high-heel pump is constructed or what material is inside a riding saddle? Laurence Picot did.

Picot spent 17 years researching the makeup of these and other luxury items. Ever since 1997, when she pondered the definition of luxury, she’s been on a quest to identify the characteristics of high-end objects.

Picot created an exhibition, “LuxInside: Traces of Man,” that uses a medical scanner and photography to delve into the heart of luxury objects.

The exhibit, which was launched in France at the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, traveled to Macau; Buenos Aires and Rosario, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and Paris’ Grand Palais in September 2013. Picot has now partnered with the French Embassy to launch the exhibit at four Holt Renfrew stores in Canada.

It bowed at the Yorkdale flagship in Toronto last week and travels to Calgary on July 3, Bloor Street in Toronto on Sept. 9 and Montreal on Feb. 1.

“This is an art and science work I’ve done with a collective,” Picot said. “I thought the idea and concept of luxury was really lost nowadays. The public doesn’t know what it means. They only know the brands. True luxury is the knowledge of craftsmanship.”

The exhibit lets visitors pierce through iconic objects in search of traces of the men and women who designed and manufactured them. Another purpose of the exhibit is to uncover the high quality of the craftsmanship as well as the inventions that made the objects possible.

The exhibit consists of 14 luxury items and a medical scan of their inner workings. “You need to go deep inside to see traces of man,” Picot said. “For example, take the Louboutin heel. We scanned the high heel, and the inside shows a structure made from a very specific metal. It comes from an innovation by Roger Vivier, who in the Fifties asked the aircraft industry to create a metal high heel for him. Before that, no metal could support the weight of a woman on a very small surface. The idea is to show to people that inside there are many secrets that need to be done in a perfect way. ”

Other objects in the collection include the new Hermès saddle, Saint-Louis crystal, the silversmithing of Christofle, Cadolle lingerie, Saint-Gobain smart glass, Lavabre Cadet gloves, Pierre Corthay shoes, a Leica camera, Dyson technology, a Gibson guitar, a design by French industrial designer Mathieu Lehanneur and Louis XIII de Rémy Martin cognac.

Picot is trying to save craftsmanship that is dying in her country. She chose the Cadolle lingerie because “France lost 99 percent of the people able to make lingerie. It’s this type of thing that I want to defend and promote.”

“People say that luxury is not useful and is superficial,” Picot said. “I say it’s most important to make these products. I’d like all the companies to protect their own luxury. I wanted to show that we need to react. We were in danger of losing all our patrimony. To invest in innovation, we need to go on producing. We lost a lot in France.”