You Can Get Anything at the New Hermès Men’s Store…



If you want to know where a good chunk of those Wall Street bonuses might end up this year, look no further than 690 Madison Avenue. Once the home of the Luca Luca boutique, this 2450-square-foot townhouse is now the maison of Hermès Man, the house’s first boutique dedicated to menswear. Redesigned by Parisian architectural firm RDAI, and opening tomorrow, the four-level space gives off a modern French clubhouse vibe with tall strips of windows, sandblasted cherry wood paneling, Saul Leiter photographs and an etched, frosted glass and iron staircase.

The first floor is dedicated to ties, shirts, fragrance, and exclusive accessories—including neckwear, card cases, a pocketed, iPod-ready Pure Music scarf, not to mention an $8500, hand-stitched baseball glove—all made in limited-edition “Hermès red.” On the mezzanine you’ll find watches, shoes, and bags, and the complete menswear collection on the third level. Up on the fourth floor, in a cozy space that feels like a plush walk-in closet, is the made-to-measure suite. Mimicking the “floor of dreams” in the Tokyo and Paris flagships, it’s a nook for guys who require, say, a purple crocodile biker jacket with functional buttonholes and gold hardware, a personalized tie (in one of 1000 colors; 1001 if those don’t slake your thirst), or simply a bespoke suit and matching sweater. “We are talking about men’s dreams. For one it could be a tie, for another it could be a pair of shoes, for another it could be a suit,” Veronique Nichanian, the Artistic Director for men’s ready-to-wear, told me yesterday during a preview of the shop. Men had been waiting for it, she says: “All my male friends started suggesting, ‘You should do this for your next collection’ or, ‘You should do that.'” It seems that every man has a dream.

MICHAEL SLENSKE: So how did this new menswear store come about?

VERONIQUE NICHANIAN: I wanted to have very intimate clothes and a very intimate room, and on the fourth floor it’s exactly what I wanted. It’s a men’s closet on the fourth floor.  One floor is for the casual things, one floor is for the more dressy, and one floor is for the dreams.

SLENSKE: I’ve heard you call the fourth floor the “floor of dreams.”

NICHANIAN: This floor still exists in Tokyo and Rue Saint Honore [in Paris]. You can order bespoke suits. But on this floor you can even order something special in leather or even in knitwear. You can make whatever you want.

SLENSKE: Is there a “too far” where you won’t let a guy go?

NICHANIAN: No, no. Unless he does something completely wrong. If he wants a pink mink.

SLENSKE: It’s been ten years since 691 was opened. Why weren’t men ready for this ten years ago? It didn’t seem like menswear had gotten to this point in 2000.

NICHANIAN: You’re right. I think this is the right time. This is what I like about Hermès. Our customer is developing and developing again, and they are very demanding about having the whole collection, all the accessories, everything. They’re always asking me to do more things.

SLENSKE: It’s more of a demand than supply question?

NICHANIAN: Yes, that’s true, but for me it was a dream to have a whole building or shop dedicated to this work. People like to have exclusivity. Don’t you like to have something only for you? Eric Clapton asked me to design something exclusive for him, which I start to do. It was over 12 years ago and now I’m still designing for him.

SLENSKE: What did he want?

NICHANIAN: First he wanted a valet for his guitar in crocodile; next he asked me to do some clothes and many other things for him and for many other famous peoples. I can talk about him because he wrote about it. I design and dress many actors and we’re very discreet.

SLENSKE: So did someone ask for a baseball glove at one point?

NICHANIAN: No, it was just a joke between us. We’re on Madison, and we ask what’s very American? Baseball. It’s this Hermès special red, this dark red.

SLENSKE: Since the last time we spoke a few years back the collections have gotten looser it seems. Especially for spring and fall 2010.

NICHANIAN: It’s the casual chic. No socks.

SLENSKE: Then it seems like the collection got tough for Fall. Like French countryside for spring and kind of a tough American look for Fall. Does that make sense?

NICHANIAN: It was no more French than American. The Fall [2009 collection] was the beginning of the [financial] crisis so I wanted to have a lot of energy. I put this strong yellow and red and after I felt people were feeling better so my feeling was that you have to enjoy life so there was a lot of earth tone coloration and this winter collection I wanted to have a very navy, dark gray.

SLENSKE: Then there were the reds and that blue.

NICHANIAN: Bleu de Prusse. Prussian Blue. I always like to play with color, with a touch of print. Not too much. A lot of scarves.

SLENSKE: And then there was those great simulated v-necks on the sweaters.

NICHANIAN: Yes. It was just this thing from the 60’s. I thought it was very fancy and chic. Just a twist. [HERMES USA CEO ROBERT CHAVEZ ENTERS, AND THEY HUG]

ROBERT CHAVEZ: Don’t interrupt the artist.

SLENSKE: So what do you want the store to be ultimately?

NICHANIAN: Just to see the people feel happy when they come in. But it’s not a strategy. It was about the opportunity, if at some point we do [another store] and if not, this will be the only one. We are not a group that has a strategy.

SLENSKE: The boys next door.

NICHANIAN: Yeah, I said that. It’s actually the men across the street. I thought it was a joke. It was funny in French. I’m not sure what it’s doing in English.