The Rue de Sèvres space that houses Hermès’ new store—its 134th and second largest to date—used to be home to the Lutetia hotel’s indoor swimming pool. So in tribute to aquaculture past, the label trucked in a band of kids in matching swimsuits to salute arriving guests, while on a balcony, great moments in swimming-pool cinema screened on a loop.
As impressive as all that was—as is the former pool space itself, which now holds three giant, nearly 30-foot-tall “huts” in latticed ashwood, designed by architect Denis Montel of RDAI (below)—the guests were gasping loudest at one partygoer in particular. Salma Hayek Pinault, in red, strapless Gucci, was making the congratulatory rounds, reportedly on behalf of her husband, François-Henri Pinault of PPR. It was a dramatic entrance, given Hermès’ recent conflict with Pinault’s no. 1 rival, Bernard Arnault of LVMH, who’s lately been angling to buy a share of the company. Hayek gamely posed with Hermès chairman Patrick Thomas, but both downplayed the significance of her visit. Artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas (above, with Hayek and Thomas) was more eager to discuss the store, the label’s first on the Left Bank of Paris in all of its 173 years in business. “I had a moment of vertigo when I first visited,” Dumas said, “but it was stimulating. I asked myself, how can we turn this into a warm and protective space?”
Speaking of spaces, the opening coincides with Hermès’ move into interiors. The store showcases the recent addition of furnishings fabrics, wallpaper, carpets, and the new Jean-Michel Frank par Hermès numbered furniture re-editions. (Hermès did the original leatherwork for Frank’s Comfortable series of Art Deco sofas and chairs from the 1920’s.) Nearly half of the three-level, 15,800-square-foot space is devoted to home, including a florist’s shop stocked with exotica like New Zealand coral peonies and lichen branches. There’s a bookstore, too, the Chaîne d’Encre, and a tea bar on the balcony, the aptly named Le Plongeoir—the Diving Board.
Photo: Stephane Feugere; Courtesy of Hermès