Why have a plain old ribbon cutting for a splashy new store when you can throw a full-fledged original musical?
Dancers performed outside of the new Hermès flagship store in Manhattan.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
The artistic director of Hermès, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, stood on the fourth floor of the French luxury house’s new flagship store a few weeks before its official opening, speaking in hushed tones to his assistant, who was crouched over a large painting by Antoine Carbonne, delicately rubbing its edge with a cloth. Mr. Dumas had personally curated all of the artworks hanging on the store’s walls, some pulled from the company archives, others more recent acquisitions, all intended to tell the story of Hermès.
But with this painting, there was a problem.
“I did not realize the huge signature — it’s really absurd,” Mr. Dumas, 56, said, referring to the way Mr. Carbonne had written his name across the side of the painting. Mr. Dumas’s assistant was gently removing the signature’s bright white paint. “We subdue it,” Mr. Dumas said. “He agreed we could gently make it less.”
The four floors of the store — or maison, as those in the Hermès universe prefer to call a flagship, located at Madison Avenue and 63rd Street — were haphazardly covered with stacks of the brand’s signature orange boxes, many still wrapped in plastic. Staff members were busy helping to unpack the array of merchandise — perfumes, wallets, lipsticks, bracelets, dog collars, belts, ties, scarves and more — that had just arrived from France and elsewhere. Special items had been made exclusively for this location, including several Kelly bags and a wooden bicycle with 706 Madison, the store’s address, painted across its frame. Eighty-five Hermès family members and 150 employees were expected to fly in for the ribbon cutting. A Broadway-style musical called “Love Around the Block” had been commissioned for the opening-night party.
The musical performance, “Love Around the Block,” centered around a young couple, Joanna and Max. Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
The show included colorful props...Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
...as well as vibrant scenery and costumes.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
The musical included tap-dancing on props made to resemble the classic orange Hermès box.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
Mr. Dumas, wearing navy slacks, sweater and blazer with leather pockets, has been with his family’s storied company for 30 years, having overseen its rapid expansion in recent decades with categories such as beauty and travel. In 2006, he became artistic director, replacing his father, Jean-Louis Dumas, who had run both the creative and business sides of the company for 28 years and who had first transformed the Parisian heritage brand into a more internationally minded company. When Pierre-Alexis started, he said, there were about 2,000 employees. As of the beginning of this year, there were 18,428. His cousin, Axel Dumas, became Hermès’s chief executive in 2013, succeeding Patrick Thomas, the businessman who was C.E.O. from 2003 to 2014. Both Pierre-Alexis and Axel are descendants of Thierry Hermès, the harness and saddle maker who founded the company in 1837.
Each year, in a custom that began with Mr. Dumas’s father, Hermès announces a theme, which designers in various departments (women’s wear, men’s wear, silks, fragrance and so on) interpret as they wish. “Lightness” was the company’s theme for 2022. Past themes have included “Innovation in the Making,” “In Pursuit of Hermès Dreams” and “Let’s Play!”
Mr. Dumas, who selects each theme two years in advance, said his method in choosing it was “not to think.” He prefers to rely on his intuition to guide him.
Pierre-Alexis Dumas, center, the brand’s artistic director, is the great-great-great grandson of Thierry Hermès, who founded the company in 1837.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
Mr. Dumas is an early riser, and his mornings are sacred. He enjoys walking, either the 45 minutes to his Paris office, or on the seaside in Normandy, where he has a second home. “When you walk, your brain takes in more oxygen,” he said. He may jot down just a word once a day. If an idea for a theme feels right, Mr. Dumas often takes it to the in-house philosopher, Adrien Barrot (“I told him, ‘Your job is to sit in that chair and read books.’”) and other members of his inner circle, and they discuss its potential.
Though an Hermès flagship, now closed, had already existed just a block away, this one — eight and a half years in the making — is not just bigger and better at 45,000 square feet, but also softer and more varied.
The former flagship, now closed, was transformed into an orange-colored speakeasy for the night.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
“Texture and material are coming back,” Mr. Dumas said, running his fingers down the custom jacquard wall fabric in the women’s jewelry section. “After years of conceptual art where it was all about ideas and not about material, suddenly everybody’s rediscovering material and craft.” Indeed, for a brand that prides itself on its meticulous artisanship, no detail here was overlooked, from the inlaid terrazzo floors to the grand limestone staircase to the rooftop garden filled only with native New England plants and designed by the landscape architect Miranda Brooks, to the white Birkin bag with tiny hand-sewn windows made to resemble Hermès’s original Paris flagship, at 24 Rue du Faubourg, on a snowy day.
“We don’t work against nature,” Mr. Dumas said, elaborating on what he believes drives the roughly 200 creative types in his employ. “We work with the nature of materials. And it’s a golden rule. I have three golden rules.”
He paused, prompting his interlocutor to ask what the other two were.
“Golden rule No. 2: We make objects that have a purpose,” he said, adding, in reference to his great-great-great grandfather’s roots in designing equestrian accessories: “Function is sacred. We say, ‘May the horse be happy.’”
Graydon Carter, the editor of Airmail, attended the opening. Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
Martha Stewart was among the hundreds of guests at the event.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
Cocktails, wine and champagne were served without pause.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
From left, Madou Fall, Joseph Oxley, Delano Sampson, Tajma Desir and Gary Warren.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
He continued: “The third is to have genuine empathy. Don’t underestimate what an object or what architecture will do to your mind, to your sensations, to your nervous system. We are transformed by the lift we use, by the staircase we use, by the bicycle we use. That is sacred and needs to be talked about and upon. It’s the human body.”
On the night of the opening, hundreds of guests, including Martha Stewart, Tory Burch and Nicky Rothschild, toured the new store. Cocktails, wine and champagne were served without pause. Sixty-third Street on either side of Madison Avenue had been shut down, as had the neighboring restaurants, but several food trucks were on hand, offering a vast assortment of dinner options: tacos, Junior’s cheesecake, pies, pretzels, Kobe-beef burgers, hot dogs, fries, dumplings and falafel. Guests had arrived decked out in their finest pieces of Hermès. The three-part musical was followed by a D.J. and dancing at the now-former flagship, which had been transformed into an orange-hued speakeasy.
“I have never seen so many Birkins in proximity to so much falafel,” said the London-based interior designer Charlotte Rey, a guest who had been flown in for the extravaganza.
Each year Hermès announces a theme, which designers in various departments interpret as they wish. “Lightness” was the company’s theme for 2022.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
That morning, before the festivities, Mr. Dumas had been sitting in a small side room on the flagship’s home floor, where binders of fabric swatches had been meticulously lined up on a wooden bookshelf. An artwork depicting horses was hanging on the adjoining wall. A perfect-looking moth orchid sat on the coffee table. The finishing touches had been added to the store.
He explained the etymology of the word “desire.” “It was the wish to see the distant star that will guide you through the night,” he said. “What it means for us today is that, more than ever, people wish to have objects bring meaning to their lives as opposed to instant gratification that leaves you somehow depressed once you have consumed.”
Opening a store in New York City was a bit “traumatic” for Hermès, Mr. Dumas had shared. His grandfather had done so in 1930 but had to shutter the location the following year because of the Great Depression. It wasn’t until 1983 that the brand attempted a freestanding location again. Though this year has been marred by global inflation and the fear of an impending recession, Hermès did not appear to have cold feet this time around.
Chloe Wise, a New York-based artist who attended the party, wondered: “Who has so much money to throw a party not during fashion week or Art Basel? This is insane!”
Dancers in the store’s 45,000 square feet of space.Credit...Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 6, 2022, Section D, Page 5 of the New York edition with the headline: Hermès Turns an Opening Into an Extravaganza. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
Hermès Sales Jump 24.3% in Q3 on Strength of Asia, U.S.
The recovery of Greater China boosted the brand, as well as the opening of its Madison Avenue flagship in New York.
PARIS – There were no hurdles for Hermès International as it continued its winning sales streak in the third quarter. Revenues were up 3.1 billion euros, boosted by Asia and the U.S., with currency fluctuations working in its favor.
Sales were up 24.3 percent in the third quarter. That handily beat analyst predictions, with a consensus estimate of 15.3 percent growth at constant exchange, and forecast sales in the 2.9 billion euro ballpark.
“The strong performance in the third quarter reflects the desirability of our collections all around the world and the relevance of our values. We move forward with confidence and caution while continuing to bolster our integrated model, rooted in France and committed to job creation,” said chief executive officer Axel Dumas.
The brand’s desirability did not dim even in the face of increasing prices. Hermès upped its prices by an average of 3.5 percent in January across divisions, and added another increase of 3 percent to 5 percent for its watches and jewelry in July as a result of the rising cost of gold.
The company cited its French roots, integrated craftsmanship model and distribution network in maintaining a measured outlook for the rest of 2022. With economic and political headwinds “still difficult to assess,” the company reiterated its customary guidance of “ambitious goals for revenue growth at constant exchange rates.”
Following the stellar results of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton reported last week, the continued buoyancy of the luxury sector “suggests that the high-end global luxury goods demand has yet to normalize,” Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said in a note following the release.
Revenue for the first 9 months ending Sept. 30 were 8.61 billion euros, up 23.6 percent at constant exchange year-on-year.
Currency fluctuations boosted revenue by 451 million euros. The company used the extra cash to purchase over 100,000 shares of its stock in a buyback valued at 116 million euros in the first nine months of the year.
Asia outside of Japan had a particularly strong showing, up 33.7 percent in the third quarter, as retail maintained steady demand in Greater China despite temporary lockdowns in Macau, Chengdu and Dalian over the summer. Outside of mainland China, the company cited continued strength in South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. The strong rebound of the region particularly boosted global leather goods sales, which were up 13.2 percent, with Greater China’s sustained demand cited by the company.
Sales in Japan were up 22.7 percent, with the company citing the “loyalty of local clients,” as the country maintained strict travel rules for tourists entering the country until Oct. 11.
Following the opening of its Madison Avenue flagship and an outpost in Austin, Tx., sales in the Americas were up 18.1 percent in the third quarter.
Sales in Europe were boosted by the return of tourists and the weak euro, up 11.7 percent and particularly strong in the U.K. and Italy. In France, which also benefitted from a major influx of tourists, sales jumped 10.9 percent in the third quarter.
Broken down by category, the performance of the watch division was up a “remarkable” 55.2 percent in the third quarter, thanks to the year-old H08 line and the brand’s Cape Cod and Heure H pillar lines.
Another exceptionally strong category was ready-to-wear and accessories, up 42 percent, with continuing strong momentum in both men’s and women’s categories.
Silk and textiles, which includes the brand’s famous scarves, were up 22.9 percent, supported by increased production capacity with a new factory in Lyon, France. The combined homewares and jewelry category rose 31 percent.
A 7.4 percent increase in the perfume and beauty sector was credited to the success of the new H24 fragrance, which was launched in the first quarter of 2021. Limited color launches in the makeup line were also framed as successes.
The results follow a stellar first half of the year. The company reported a record operating margins of 42 percent and an operating income of 2.3 billion euros, in results reported in July.
LVMH reported 19 percent growth in results released earlier this month, and Kering will report its quarterly sales on Thursday in numbers released after market close.