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PARIS — Are designer window displays worthy of a museum exhibit?

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Jean Nouvel-designed Institut du Monde Arabe, or Arab World Institute, here thinks so and recently opened an exhibition called “Orient-Hermès: Voyages de Leïla Menchari.”

The show re-creates eight elaborate displays Tunisia-born Menchari, the longtime window designer at Hermès, had envisioned for the firm’s flagship on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

Juxtaposing Hermès clothing and accessories with elaborate props — from taxidermy animals and miniature monuments to elaborate mosaics and tile work — the windows variously evoke an Indian palace, an African savannah and even Menchari’s adopted home of Paris.

Running through June 6, the exhibit also features Tunisian artisans producing and selling their crafts between the vibrant showcases, as well as a sprawling Moroccan tearoom.

“I couldn’t have created this without the artisans, whose work comes from their hands, their spirits,” said Menchari, who has worked for the French luxury goods house since 1977. “I chose the ones [who are] best at what they do.”

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