My Paris Stories

Observing the big fish in the pool

An address in Paris is not simply an address. It’s a statement.

And one strong statement was that the family empire of Hermès started and remained Right Bank. Right Bank, where the money was and not the arts and sciences, the intellectuals in other words. Hermès was Right Bank. And nowhere else.

I mean, nowhere else in Paris. Of course, they opened 333 stores worldwide in the meantime, but it took them 134 faithful years at the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and on Avenue George V to cross the Seine and open a third venue in Paris. But now it’s done: This month saw the damp opening of the new boutique at rue de Sèvres – which brings the number of boutiques worldwide to 334.

Go and dive for your Birking bag

Hermès is, as you probably know, one of the oldest and I would say last family-controlled companies in Paris. After the acquisition last month of 17 per cent by LVMH, the Hermès-family was probably not in the mood for celebrating. But the party must go on (as long as LVMH chief Bernard Arnault has not succeeded in transforming Hermès into yet another trophy).

When I say damp, it is not only because of the uncountable number of bottles of Champagne offered to the 650 guests invited to the occasion. The new Hermès boutique occupies a former pool, the beautiful Art Deco swimming pool of Hôtel Lutetia, built in 1935 by architect Lucien Béguet.

But don’t worry. You do not need to shop for your Birkin underwater or go diving for a new scarf. You descend a majestic staircase and enter the mosaic-tiled space that was once the bottom of the Lutetia pool. Since the building was listed as a monument in 2005, you can imagine the effort to restore this 1500 square meter monument.

Peonies in November

In order to slightly divest the space of it’s monumentality, the architect Denis Montel (of RDAI agency) installed three oversized huts made of ash-wood. Inside, different products are showcased with a focus mainly on homeware. Actually nearly the half of the new boutique is devoted to furniture, rugs and fabrics and china – but this strikingly modern and luxury store also features a salon de thé, a tearoom, an eclectic bookshop and a flower shop (with peonies in November, the most beautiful peonies, I have to admit, I’ve ever seen: 12 Euros a stem!)

Of course, Hermes is expensive. You pay for quality. And I somehow, sometimes envy people who can afford a bag that probably will last a lifetime. But if you walk into this new concept store, it even looks indecently expensive. And this is what it’s all about here: You should forget about money.

Shopping is supposed to be more than spending money, today. Shopping is supposed to be an experience, something arty, hype and edgy. Must be fun to sit down on the chairs where the cabins used to be and look down and observe the big fish in the pool. But careful: the prices in the tearoom look to me as if you are supposed to take  the Hermès china home with you.

17, rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris
Open since 18th of November 2010.