And from mass-appeal to the super-posh as we look at shop designing for a different end of the market as Hermès reopened their store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (You know, the street made famous by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman…)
The grand opening of the store was nothing short of spectacular and gave no indication of the global recession hitting other parts of the retail sector…the opening was a sentimental occasion for members of the Hermès family – who started out making equestrian harness in Paris in 1837 and developed into a luxury global brand, particularly noted for their scarves and handbags favoured by celebrities from Lady Gaga to Posh Spice.
Sixth-generation Hermès family member and the store’s artistic director, Pierre-Alexis Dumas explains:
“It’s very emotional for me to come here and follow in the footsteps of my parents. When my father was appointed general manager in 1972, the first big decision he made was to open a freestanding store on Rodeo Drive. My grandfather had to close the first U.S. Hermès store in New York in 1928 because of the Depression and was reluctant to invest overseas again. But one generation has always been there to challenge another. And eventually, my grandfather said, ‘Just do it.’ Now my parents are gone, but we continue.”
Pierre Alexis’ father, Jean-Louis Dumas opened the store on Rodeo Drive following his appointment in 1972, now located a little further up the street at number 434 the 12,000 square foot flagship store is instantly recognisable from it’s beautiful white marble facade which has been newly renovated. The shop designing was carried out by RDAI – a Paris-based firm which was founded by Alexis’ mother. She designed all of the Hermès boutiques, starting with this one in 1972. Inside the store there is a tremendous feeling of space and light and of course luxury, emphasised by the high quality nature of the materials that it is constructed from, especially the white marble which also features heavily inside the store, with a white marble spiral staircase, illuminated by a large skylight sweeping up through the levels like the inside of an exquisite seashell.
Also inside the shop, artistic director Dumas has curated many new pieces of artwork. The window displays feature a specially commissioned piece of art detailing the skyline, animals and plants of Southern California. In the leather goods repairs department, he has hung a huge period photograph of Grace Kelly cleaning her Hermès hand bag, explaining, “The bond that woman had with that bag is real, you have to challenge tradition in order to enrich it”.
In the two years since Dumas has taken over as artistic director, he has yielded impressive result. His flair of art and store designing has caused Hermès’ sales to exceed financial expectations, quarter after quarter. In July, second-quarter revenue increased 16%, with revenue from clothing rising 23%. In order to meet demand for its prized leather goods, Hermès have created two new workshops where items such as the Birkin bag which take individual craftsmen 20 hours to complete by hand – are reinforcing Dumas’ ethos:
“For me, the ultimate luxury is to learn, people ask, ‘What’s so special about this object?’ And the more you learn about the craft, the rarity and the uniqueness, the more you appreciate it. It’s knowledge. It’s not just a price point.”
“What keeps me going is the deep belief I’m serving a purpose that’s greater than myself. The ownership of Hermès is family, but the culture of Hermès is really a universal legacy,” Dumas says. “Hermès is defending the idea of craft, which started 100,000 years ago when human beings managed to develop tools to make fire. Craft is the result of thousands of years of evolution, of experimentation, practice, innovation, practice, transmission and more practice. Craft is fundamental to the humane side of our human nature.”