Hermès is bucking the norm with the opening of its third Texas store.
On Saturday, the French luxury brand will open a 7,600-square-foot store on South Congress Avenue in Austin. The location is a bit of a departure for the company since it will mark the first luxury brand on the street in a town better known for its live music and festivals than its high-end shopping.
But that’s intentional.
“We’re not afraid to be pioneers,” said Robert Chavez, Hermès USA president and chief executive officer.
Chavez, who was born and raised in Texas, said the company’s business in the state is “very good” at its two existing stores in Dallas and Houston. In addition to longtime residents, he said Austin has attracted a lot of people who have moved from California and the East Coast to escape the pandemic and to be immersed in the city’s high-energy atmosphere, culture and music.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing cities,” Chavez said, adding that there are also large corporations who have major presences in Austin including Whole Foods, Tesla and Apple, which is building a $1 billion campus there.
“We felt like it was time to come to Austin,” Chavez said. And while there is a luxury center north of the city, “we wanted to be somewhere different.”
So instead of a traditional location, it opted for South Congress with its trendy restaurants, hotels and boutiques.
He said a pop-up the brand had opened in the city before the pandemic was “very successful,” solidifying the company’s decision to open a permanent location there. “We saw the enthusiasm of the people and look forward to introducing the beauty and quality of our artisan-made collections to Austinites, who appreciate creativity, culture and individuality. It’s a great city and location.”
The store will have more of a “casual vibe” than the other units in the state, he said and will include a “beautiful outdoor patio” under a tree where customers can relax and have a coffee or tea. It has been designed by the Parisian architecture agency RDAI and includes a facade of simple mineral terrazzo and large windows overlooking South Congress Avenue. Upon entering, customers will find the fashion jewelry and men’s silk collections merchandised over a mosaic carpet in shades of cactus and sand. The architectural center of the two-story boutique is a gray terrazzo ramp with amber accents that was inspired by skate parks.
The women’s silk collections are showcased on a metal grid and metal shelves on the main floor and a ramp connects the first floor’s perfume, beauty, jewelry and watch collections to the upper level. On the second floor, the equestrian and leather goods and home collections are displayed as well as the ready- to-wear, accessories, and a large shoe salon. Throughout the store, the naturalistic textures of raffia walls and oak panels complement the graphic design of the 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.
During the construction of the store, Hermès invited Austin-based artists Sophie Roach and Laura Lit to create a colorful designs on the boarding that covered the storefront. Once it opens to the public, Hermes will attract local shoppers with events and installations including the traveling Hermes in the Making exhibit that will made a stop at the store in October. Hermes in the Making spotlights the artisans and craftsmanship of the house.
Chavez said he expects this store to attract a “more youthful client” because of its location and aesthetic. “We believe people are going to embrace it,” he said.
This is the latest store in Hermès’ retail fleet, which numbers more than 300 stores in 45 countries. It follows a 7,100-square-foot store that was recently expanded in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. Next up is a small pop-up the brand will be opening in Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y., he said. But the big moment for the company will come in September when Hermès opens a new five-story, 45,000-square-foot flagship on Madison Avenue in New York City.