I can't recommend the current Hermès exhibition highly enough. Leather Forever (The Royal Academy galleries, 6 Burlington Gardens, London, W1) celebrates the iconic brand's 175th anniversary, and includes fantastical examples of its bespoke service (black patent calfskin wheelbarrow, anyone?) as well as a chance to drool over four one-off bags to be auctioned at Christie's to raise funds for the Royal Academy.

To coincide with the exhibition, Hermès will be auctioning four specially designed Passe-Guide handbags conceived to represent England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These are aimed neither at shrinking violets nor those aversely reactive to stereotype. The English design is embellished with a fox tail; the Irish one is crafted in emerald green crocodile and finished with a shamrock; the Scottish one features tartan, front and back, and the Welsh bag has a leather dragon dangling from its shoulder strap and a second stamped in gold where otherwise a logo might be. Somewhat more politically correct..? All proceeds will be donated to the Royal Academy of Arts.

Ces petites besaces, créées en 1975 par Henri d'Origny, concentre le chic et le savoir-faire de la maison et affichent dans leurs nouveaux habits british une délicieuse fantaisie. Ils seront visibles à l'exposition et vendus par Christie's au profit de la Royal Academy of Arts lors d'enchères en ligne.

The polished halls of London's Burlington Gardens have a rather unusual visitor: Zouzou, a white rhinoceros with golden horns is here to celebrate the latest exhibition for Hermès. The 12 spacious rooms showcase the different stories and sides to Hermes which is famous for creating famed handbags such as the Kelly and the Birkin. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the exhibition by lifting hidden panels, touching digital displays or just simply basking in the scent of the finest leather that money can buy.

May's issue of Vogue UK referenced the Leather Forever Exhibition as part of an ongoing 'equine trend'. They paid homage to 'the art of stylish saddlery, with beautiful blazing saddles on show as part of a 175-year anniversary celebration of the Hermès craft.

Luke Leitch talks to Pierre-Alexis and Axel Dumas about Leather Forever in the Daily Telegraph:

We want to share our culture, we are tenants of a culture that is age-old. We used our tools and know-how from our link to horse equipment, and we applied it to accessories and handbags. It is a long, beautiful, human tradition.

The French fashion house has gone all Britophile. It's not only staging a Leather Forever expo at the Royal Academy (8-27 May) but it's also launching four bags to celebrate England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Here's the Passe-Guide England bag – its furry charm pays tribute to the bearskin hats of the Queen's guard. All will be auctioned at Christie's.

Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Artistic Director and descendant of Thierry Hermès explains the appeal of Hermès bags and the unique way of handling leather:

The perfume, the firmness, the softness, the sheen – these are not miracles, but the slowly ripened fruits of an age-old tradition, spiced with the spirit of adventure.

There's only one of each bag and they have been designed in tribute to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The English tote nods to military bearskin caps; the Scottish style features tartan; the Welsh one has a gold embossed dragon; while Ireland's green croc bag comes with an oversized four-leaf clover.

They're sure-fire investment pieces, and certain to fetch record-breaking prices as hardcore Hermès hoarders vie to get their hands on them. These collectors are known to travel the globe for Kellys and Birkins in rare colours and finishes. And then there are the lesser-known Hermès bags that don't have specific names, but which only these enthusiasts would recognise – ultra-rare bags like the 1930s Lola Prusac-designed styles and the hallowed Mondrian-inspired tote – that sell for astronomical prices.