Making your retail store feel like a home – a relaxing, inviting and luxurious one – is quite the thing right now and Hermès has of course nailed it. Enter exhibit A: its newly re-zhuzhed London flagship in the old Time & Life building in New Bond Street. This year marks its 40th anniversary in this location and it’s celebrated by doubling the size, enhancing the tactile factor and giving us a whole lot more product.
On entering the ground floor, you’re struck by how open and bright the space feels, thanks to elegant curved edges at every turn. Menswear has expanded, so much that is has prime position at the front of the store. In fact, every category (or métier) is represented here, including jewellery, watches, silks and equestrian goods.
As expected, there are fine details to be found if you know where to look. For example, step slowly on that curved staircase and notice the terrazzo flooring, hand-embedded with crystal chips (then thrice polished). Or while you await the lift, check out the dramatic woven ‘curtain’ of copper mesh panels.
On the first floor, the brand is at pains to invite you to touch and play, with open shelving and ‘interactive’ tables. Well, interactive in as much as you’re encouraged to linger and handle the products rather than waiting to be attended to. Big highlights for me are the spotlights on beauty and stationery. Hermès has all its delicious soaps, shower gels and scents out and proudly on display, and likewise its new line of Nautilus pens, cards, silk-lined notebooks and organisers. And of course, the leathergoods are heroically displayed including three one-off versions of the Bond Street clutch, made especially for this reopening.
For me, bricks and mortar retail needs to be an event in order to compete with every other leisure activity we’re tempted by. Well get ready for the trump card. In a newly opened up part of the first floor (previously occupied by Hermès offices), the brand has installed its beautiful and homely maison department. This being a listed building, there were limits to the changes that could be made. Look carefully at the wood panelling and you’ll see newer sections have been meticulously matched to the originals.
Naturally, the product is stunning. Hermès has produced furniture for a while but isn’t able to accommodate it in every store. But here everything is harmoniously and comfortably arranged. On a far wall is a mesmerising ‘Module H’ leather panel, the modular partitioning device created with architect Shigeru Ban, a great decorative feature but also I imagine, quite handy for room accoustics (must get Mr DRG to put an order in).
But wait, that’s not the trump card. Look out beyond the glass French doors to the handsome outdoor terrace, and you’re greeted by a previously hidden Henry Moore sculpture. Draped Reclining Figure was created for the Time & Life building in the 1950s and for the first time is on view to the public. A fitting celebratory gift to us all, and an unshowy one at that. It’s a subtle yet bold touch, and wholly unexpected. Which I guess is not a bad description for Hermes too.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
Images: Disneyrollergirl; Hermes