At the Hermès grand opening on Friday, April 28, the excitement — and occasional French accent — was perceptible as a select number of Austinites received a glimpse of the chic new space.
Located at 1221 S. Congress Av. as part of the Music Lane development, the Hermès outpost is Austin's first and the third in Texas. Laurent-Perrier champagne flowed as the well-heeled crowd nibbled on wagyu brisket, chèvre and caviar hors-d’oeuvres, admiring the French-made silks, jewelry, clothing, and equestrian and leather goods.
Since 1837, family-owned Hermès has been synonymous with French craftsmanship and luxury. Think the coveted and hard to procure Birkin and Kelly bags, which can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $2 million, as well as iconic leather belts with a gold H clasp or silk scarves favored by Queen Elizabeth, just one of many iconic ladies known to sport an Hermès scarf.
Hermès says they chose Austin as a location because they were drawn to the city’s creativity, culture, and individuality, and that the store is an expression of the Parisian house’s heritage fused with Austin's distinctive music scene and Southwestern American spirit. The store’s design seeks to balance both the classic and the contemporary, “an idiosyncratic blend of the Texas desert landscape and Austin’s urban street vocabulary of skate and music culture…defined by minimalistic and natural elements,” according to the official description.
The architectural core of the two-story boutique, designed by the Parisian architecture agency RDAI, is a warm gray terrazzo ramp with amber accents, inspired by skate parks. A ramp connects the first floor’s perfume, beauty, jewelry and watch collections to the upper level, which houses collections for the home, ready-to-wear, accessories, and shoe salon. Throughout the store, the naturalistic textures of raffia walls and oak panels complement the graphic design of dune-colored carpets.
Among the artwork selected for the store are two pieces from the Hermès collection of contemporary photographs by American artist Terri Weifenbach and reproductions of the Appaloosa des Steppes scarf design by Alice Shirley. Hermès invited Austin-based artist Sophie Roach to create a joyous and colorful design of geometric shapes that animate the storefront window.
The boutique officially opened to the public on Saturday, April 30, but the preview party provided a sneak peek and intimate, celebratory dinner at Brazos Hall. One-hundred-seventy guests gathered on the rooftop for a three-course meal paired with a Sancerre white, Haute Côtes de Beaune red and, yes, more champagne, punctuated by haunting trombone pieces composed and conducted by Steve Parker leading the University of Texas Trombone choir.
Commemorating the brand's Austin expansion, Hermes USA CEO Robert Chavez, a Texas native, and Paris based Florian Craen, executive vice-president of sales and distribution, gave speeches and champagne toasts. The evening was as close to a French soirée as one can find in Austin, and a reminder of why we love French elegance and style.