Hermes — the iconic French luxury brand of the famed Kelly and Birkin bags, upscale clothing for men and women, and treasured home goods — reopened its famed Beverly Hills boutique at 434 N. Rodeo Drive on Sept. 3 with both a morning store tour for journalists and a blowout one-of-a-kind evening party at a coveted Culver City events space (8461 Warner Drive). It had been under renovation for 18 months.
The French brand's Parisian creative director Pierre-Alexis Dumas and U.S. Hermes president Robert Chavez even held a pre-dinner the night before, just after their arrival in Los Angeles, at the Sunset Tower Hotel's terrace, for select journalists and Hollywood friends of the house. This was one serious two-day celebration, with no expense spared and an array of visual treats that even Hollywood has rarely seen the likes of.
On Tuesday morning, the store walk-through began with an examination of the new boutique windows created by French visual artists Zim & Zou, who flew in from Paris to oversee the whimsical paper installation done mostly in a turquoise shade Hermes initiated for a good portion of the Bev Hills store. It took the team six weeks to ready just this visual installation. One of two $12,900 custom-made Hermes leather basketballs -- first reported on by THR in August -- was part of the display. We hear the other basketball has already been snapped up.
The turquoise shade also extended to a special installation on the first floor of the newly opened store, which features Hermes jewelry, watches, fragrances, leather goods, scarves and hats. The centerpiece: an Hermes blue bicycle with an accompanying Hermes saddle bag -- the bike running $4,700, and the saddlebag, $11,200 -- both one of a kind. Birkin and Kelly bags, and a few other Hermes bag styles shown on the first floor, were mostly displayed in shades of blues and greens, reflecting the idea of pool and ocean that Hermes sees as indigenous to Los Angeles.
Pierre-Alexis Dumas opened the festivities by introducing his cousin, Axel Dumas, the chief executive of Hermes, by explaining that Hermes opened its original Bev Hills boutique in 1972, and that the company is so invested in Los Angeles now that the Dumas family -- which originated Hermes 180 years ago and still privately owns it -- actually bought the building in 2012. "This means a lot to us," Pierre-Alexis Dumas said to journalists at the opening, "because it was my father who came to L.A. in 1972 to open this, our first freestanding store in the U.S." The architectural redesign of the 12,000-square-foot store was handled by French company RDAI, which designs all of the company's boutiques worldwide.
The store's design is centered on a white spiral staircase that extends up all three floors (the third floor, newly opened for retail, was private before) to give a sense of light extending down the stairs and spilling into the store.
The second floor includes what Hermes refers to as "the men's universe" and "the women's universe" of clothing, accessories, shoes and boots. The newly refurbished men's area includes a bespoke room, where gentlemen can choose their own fabrics and colors for suits, shirts -- and even sweaters. This is all new for the West Coast. There are also a few iconic Hermes leather bracelets with the brand's famed pyramid shape done in diamonds and one in rose gold.
Displayed throughout the store is an impressive array of photography and art -- with the art emphasizing the equestrian history of Hermes, which started out as a leather saddle specialty company. Perhaps the store's best photo is a rare shot from the 1950s of Grace Kelly cleaning her very own Kelly bag -- which, of course, was named for her.
The third floor includes all home goods, including the company's fine saddles -- each one is marked from the beginning of the company, 180 years ago. There is also a bed, leather chairs, reissues of the company's Jean-Michel Frank furniture, leather tables and benches -- many by Italian designer Enzo Mari, who works with Hermes on many items and objects. There's even a tall leather shelf and a bench with drawers. Of course, it's all exquisitely tasteful -- and surprisingly functional at the same time. Possibly the most expensive item in the entire store is a turquoise leather wine carrier that comes with crystal goblets. It's a redesign of one that was made originally for Sammy Davis Jr. "And my favorite wines," noted Pierre Alexi Dumas generously, "would be wines from California."
The evening's events began with an invitation for loyal Beverly Hills customers to see the store, then the party moved on to the Culver City locale -- which was a feast of Hermes combined with Hollywood visuals that amazed even this sophisticated crowd. Guests included jewelry designer Loree Rodkin, Sama Eyewear's Sheila Vance, Jessica Alba, vintage retailer Cameron Silver, stylists Jeanne Yang and Petra Flannery, and philanthropist and TV producer Maria Bell taking her own red croc Birkin out for a spin. To enter, guests walked an orange carpet, which is the color of Hermes boxes. Just inside the space, a "river" was installed on which toy boats were raced, and Parisian street carts offered mushroom crepes and artisanal mini sandwiches -- and champagne flowed, of course. Then guests moved through to a very large "library room" lined with Hermes book-print wallpaper, where a small band played, lobster tails were served, and historic bags and pieces were displayed behind glass.
And as if all of this wasn't wonder enough, every guest was given a digital chip that they could use to have souvenirs of the evening e-mailed to them -- caricatures done by several artists, photo ops, etc. Another room, with video images of bodies swimming overhead and blue and white tile, was clearly "the pool room." It featured some spirited dancing by "synchronized swimmers" (with no water) -- men in turquoise Hermes trunks, ladies in turquoise Hermes suits and bathing caps. It was nothing short of retro adorable -- an Esther Williams movie come to life.
Yet another room was modeled on 1930s Hollywood, complete with vintage film clips showing from the 1920s and 1930s dawn of cinema, a director with a megaphone, opportunities to pose wearing vintage Hermes scarves -- and a large white vintage automobile, which Hollywood car fanatics could not stop fawning over.
At the end of the party, many exhausted party goers sat in the outdoor patio area, sipping the last of their champagne -- and wondering what future Hollywood party could ever top this.
"At Hermes," Pierre-Alexis Dumas told The Hollywood Reporter, "we take parties very seriously."