Hermès sent a clear message about the viability of physical retail stores with the opening of its long-awaited, massive new store in September madison avenue Flagship.
After more than eight years of planning, the French fashion house opened the doors to a seven-story, 45,000 square meter monument of luxury at 706 madison avenue on 63rd street. From the outdoor gardens and cavalier on horseback on the rooftop to the extensive range that includes everything from saddles and dog beds to leather goods, diamond watches, rolling suitcases and ready-to-wear and accessories for both men and women, this closes Shop at Ginza in Tokyo as the largest of the company’s fleet of over 300 units.
Four of the floors, or approximately 20,250 square feet, are dedicated to retail space and a fifth dedicated exclusively to Hermès product repair and craft workshops. The two lower levels are offices and storage rooms.
“There is no better tribute to retail,” says Florian Craen, Executive Vice President of Sales and Distribution at Hermès International. “Not only does it offer space for all our metiers, but also the opportunity for enchanted discoveries and a place to smile.”
The store comprises three buildings, one a former 1921 Federal style bank and two adjoining townhouses that form an L-shape around the bank. Designed by Parisian architecture firm RDAI, founded by Rena Dumas, wife of former Hermès CEO, it replaces two smaller Hermès stores – one for men and one for women – that have now closed.
One entrance is dedicated to the men’s store, which has seen the biggest transformation, expanding from around 3,000 square feet to more than 6,000 square feet over two floors.
“We are very excited to bring men and women together again; they have been separated since 2010,” said Robert Chavez, President and CEO of Hermès USA. “This will be a dynamic change for us. Also new to us are these multi-product displays so people can get a feel for how extensive our offering is.”
In the men’s department, this includes clothing, neckwear, shirts, accessories and fragrances.
The other entrance previews some of the highlights from each of the brand’s métiers or departments, offering scarves, jewellery, apparel, leather goods and beauty products. The ground floor also offers fragrance and makeup stations.
In addition to the products, the newly created repair department on the fifth floor is now the main repair location in the US, and there is a concierge, VIP rooms in each department, and bars on every floor.
More than 150 paintings and artworks are displayed throughout the shop, including a children’s hansom cab from 1830s London on the ground floor, which pays tribute to both the heritage of Hermès and New York’s cabs.
Some of the features of the former bank building have been retained, including a plaque on the back of the ground floor dedicated to the founders of the Bank of New York, including Alexander Hamilton; the original staircase; the latticework from the former entrance to the safe area and an antique clock still hanging on the wall at 7:06.
“It’s part of American history,” says Craen.
The back of the men’s section also showcases some of the brand’s creative offerings such as bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, boxing gloves, dog tents and other novelties. A selection of saddles is also on display here.
“That’s where we come from,” says Craen, adding that Hermès continues to supply gear for the best riders in the world.
The second floor is a “men’s universe,” says Craen, showcasing ready-to-wear and shoes, as well as watches, gloves, bags, fragrances, and a bespoke salon where customers can create their own suits, shirts, knitwear, and other products .
Climbing the Portuguese limestone staircase to the second floor next to the men’s shop is the living area with its assortment of crockery, blankets and furniture.
There is a large jewelry and watch department on the third floor. “We are able to showcase fine jewelry like never before,” says Craen. There is also a large women’s accessories section for gloves, belts, hats and other products as well as ready-to-wear. “No other Hermès store can present such a variety of offers.”
The fourth floor is dedicated to leather goods and features a huge fiberglass bas-relief wall designed after French artist Francois Houtin’s ink drawings of American trees. A large skylight brings sun and light to the ground. The Piece de Resistance is a Miranda Brooks designed rooftop garden that will be used for special events and will also be open to customers.
There are multiple seating areas throughout the store where customers are invited to sit and relax. “We are happy when our customers spend time here,” says Craen. “The only reason a store exists today is to provide special moments that the digital world cannot provide.”
According to Craen, one of the main reasons for choosing this site was not only its size, but also the “characteristic of the building itself” with its many windows letting in the light.
“It has a very New York feel that feels more like an apartment.”
There are 32 stores in the US, Chavez says, meaning there’s “tremendous potential for growth.” Recent additions include the 7,600-square-foot Austin, Texas store, which isn’t in a luxury mall but on South Congress Avenue with its lively music and dining scene. “It’s a bit renegade, but the response has been phenomenal.”
Other small stores are slated to open in Palmer Square in Princeton, he said, as well as Aspen, Colorado, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York.
Craen says that although retail has attracted most of the attention lately, Hermès remains primarily a manufacturing company. As a result, more products and categories will be explored.
“New products are coming out all the time, so there will definitely be a lot of additions to existing categories in the future,” he says.