It’s been more than seven years since Hermès opened a store in the U.S. So naturally, with the advent of the luxury brand’s new Palo Alto, Calif., boutique, the occasion warranted a little fanfare.
The Thursday evening reveal brought the Paris-based company’s stamp of luxury to the Stanford Shopping Center. Nestled between Rolex, Burberry and an Apple store, the new Hermès boutique greeted guests with an open-air concept, complete with glass windows in the front and back, as well as a skylight carved into the top of the one-story structure. The goal of the tony boutique was to bring the outdoors inside.
Guests enjoyed the space over Champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres from servers wielding caviar on blinis to pickled fruit. Some took in the luxe inventory, while others regarded the Hermès scarves on the walls, displays showcasing the classic Birkin and Kelly bags, handcrafted leather equestrian gear and horse imagery across various artworks on the walls.
Visitors arrived dressed in their best Hermès scarves, jewelry and bags. This is the Bay Area, so between the classic heels and cocktail attire, there was the odd sneaker and loafer. And because this is Silicon Valley, the space hosted tech executives from neighboring Apple — including design chief Jony Ive and chief operating officer Jeff Williams — as well as retail representatives from San Francisco outposts of Nordstrom and Barneys. They mixed and mingled with other fans and representatives from the technology sector.
“I’ve been to many of the stores, including the one in San Francisco and on Madison Avenue, and this store was done very well,” said Monique Barkett, chief executive officer of medical data analytics firm Talisman Systems Group. “It reflects the area and the brand. The company doesn’t kowtow. It’s not as commercialized as others.”
Hermès may not bend to whims, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be whimsical. Outside the shop, attendants in cardboard horse heads directed revelers to an adjoining cocktail party decked out in corrugated paper. Cardboard furniture, cityscapes and clouds adorned the cavernous room, which featured bars, food stations, a stage for modern dance performances and even an on-demand sketch artist, in place of the Silicon Valley–staple photo booth.
Servers supplied guests with more Champagne, along with burrata, sliders, pomme frites and other delights, as a piano player pounded out a rendition of “Black Hole Sun.”
“I know what they can do, but I didn’t expect them to build such a big event — and a show,” said Francois Pignol, an executive at a very large tech company he preferred not to name. But it makes software that most people today have in their pockets or bags.
“To be honest, when I first discovered they were opening here, I thought it was bold. But then I think it’s wise,” he added. “Hermès is craftsmanship; it’s product that lasts for years. It’s perfect to bring that to Silicon Valley. I think it will bring a positive impact to the area.”