Few fashion accessories are as effortlessly timeless as an Hermès silk scarf. Throughout the years, the brand’s designs have showcased everything from mythology and nautical themes to striking graphic patterns and jungle landscapes. But Hermès has never strayed too far from its equestrian roots, and the brand’s recent collaboration with Paris-born artist and illustrator Ugo Gattoni perfectly bridges the gap between modern and traditional.

Known for his surrealist figures and detail-rich cityscapes, Ugo’s “Hippopolis” makes horses the central characters in his sprawling, light-hearted design. Careful study reveals the animals jumping, bucking, pulling carriages, and grazing, but also walking a tightrope, flying in a hot air balloon, and holding umbrellas.

We caught up with Ugo to learn more about the story behind the scarf, his process, and his own recent riding adventure in the South of France.

Where did the idea behind Hippopolis  come from?

The first idea for this drawing came three years ago in 2014. Hermès proposed a collaboration which included a drawing for one of their famous scarves. So, as a first scarf for them, the emblem of the house was an obvious topic.

I imagined a huge city of horses and a temple where the inhabitants would be horses. [Artistic director] Pierre-Alexis Dumas came up with the name “Hippopolis” during a meeting about the drawing.

Horses are a central theme for Hermès—were you hoping to redefine them or stay true to the brand’s equestrian aesthetic?

They came to me for my style, so I drew horses and this universe around them as I saw it in that moment. I’m conscious that my style [is a departure from] the classic Hermès equestrian aesthetic, but the house’s spirit is still there.

Before beginning a new Hermès scarf design, they immerse you in their world. They make sure you understand and know them well by giving you access to their story, to their private museum, and by building a strong, trusting relationship with the Hermès family. So by the end, in every scarf the Hermès soul lives on. Only the interpretation changes thanks to each designer’s style.

Have you incorporated horses into your artwork in the past? 

It was the first time. Horses are majestic animals, even legendary ones; they are close to humans in their relationship. I’m crazy about mythology, so I like to play on that image—with Pegasus, for example. I like to play with mixing them both as statues [and real-life animals]. Their anatomy and movements are hard to draw. That’s quite a big challenge each time.

Have you spent much time with horses yourself? 

You will laugh, but my best friends surprised me a few months ago for my birthday by offering me a horse ride in the South of France. It was my real first time if I do not count the holiday camps experience when I was a child. I was really impressed—such a strong and majestic animal. Mine was called Lisa!

Can you briefly describe your process for creating Hippopolis?

It’s quite simple. First, I drew a big sketch with pencil; then, when I’m happy with the perspective and composition, I go in with some details, quite rough, just to know where I will put this element or that. The next step is drawing with ink, doing all the drawings with an outline—really fine and detailed. And the last step, where everything comes to life, is the shading!

What images or models of horses did you study in order to create this design?

It was mostly pictures found on the internet. By studying some postures and combining others, I was able to find the movement I wanted in good proportion.

Do you have other designs planned for Hermès?

Yes, my second scarf is out this month for the Spring/Summer 2017, and I am currently starting the drawing for my fifth one.

You can watch Ugo’s animated “Hippopolis” video for Hermès below: 

“Hippopolis” image courtesy of Ugo Gattoni.