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Hermès plays a hipster tune
LAST Thursday evening, the ground floor of the Madison Avenue Hermès men's store underwent something of a redesign. Ordinarily, silk ties hang from the oak-coloured walls. Instead, there were only records, which had been placed in sleeves matched to the patterns of the brand's scarves.
By the doors were Pioneer turntables and JVC headphones. Fashion editors swayed to electronic tracks that seemed more suited to the chill-out tent at Coachella than the retail outlet of a 181-year-old French fashion house whose disinclination toward chasing trends is virtually unparallelled in the industry, but whose dedication to the classic can occasionally seem a bit like fustiness.
Particularly when big shifts are taking place in fashion land.
Gucci is selling faux vintage AC/DC concert shirts for US$750. Limited-edition drops from Supreme are greeted with almost as much attention as the Super Bowl. A few weeks ago, Louis Vuitton hired as its new designer of menswear Virgil Abloh, a stylist to Kanye West and founder of the haute street wear brand Off-White.
Who wants to get left behind? Why not try to put forth the idea that Hermès can also be hip?
Guests with crocodile Kelly bags smiled and posed in a photo booth where the backdrop was patterned like a checkerboard-patterned scarf. Waiters served mini burgers, devilled eggs and a chicken and waffles hors d'oeuvre that didn't really taste like chicken and waffles.
Upstairs, DJ Patrick Vidal was playing a set for scenesterish 20-and 30-somethings who perused the racks of patterned T-shirts and hooded zip-up parkas.
Here was Emory Stewart, who is 30 and described what he does for a living as being at the intersection of fashion, creative strategy, real estate, interior design and branding.
This means he goes to a lot of parties, is active on Instagram and is well poised to talk about how the kids are consuming these days and how the grown-ups are trying to reach them.
"This is a take on Generation Z," he said, standing there in his Margiela shirt, Gucci pants, Balenciaga shoes and Givenchy jacket ("from Riccardo Tisci's last collection," he noted).
"Hermès is going for millennials," he said. "Look at Supreme. There are lines out the door every weekend. It's not always luxury, but it's a trend, and Supreme is making a lot of money. Virgil Abloh is now the creative director of Louis Vuitton. Kids look like they're homeless, but they've got $10,000 worth of garments on." Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christophe Goineau, the creative director of Hermès men's silks, put the goal of the event differently.
According to him, the idea was merely to parallel different experiences of pleasure and appeal to the senses.
He wanted, he said, to get at the "feeling and emotion you get" upon encountering a "beautiful cashmere" scarf.
If the crowd seemed mostly impressed by the execution of the concept, it might have been because the store still looked like a beacon of luxury. The clothes on the racks were mostly informal, but unmistakably Hermès.
"It's still quite elevated," said Dorian Grinspan, the recent Yale graduate who edits Out of Order, an international fashion and culture magazine that's popular with Brooklyn types.
Even the choice of Vidal as the evening's DJ was an indication that Hermès was doing this the Hermès way. "He's over 50," Goineau said. NYTIMES