15 Mar 2021 • Retail
How Hermès’ new Tokyo store leaves a unique mark on a popular shopping street
Hermès’ Omotesando flagship is the first free-standing location the brand has introduced in Tokyo in 20 years.
Hermès’ new address faces the fashionable Omotesando Avenue, which is lined with many high-end flagships designed by world-renowned architects. However, one major thing differs between the flagship and other luxury mega-stores on the street. While the majority of the retailers attract passersby in through transparent windows highlighting their products and interior, the Hermès storefront is concealed by a historical stone wall. This structure was erected in 1919 as a retaining wall when the avenue was paved. RDAI, the Parisian architectural agency in charge of Hermès’ global retail design, preserved this 20th-century exterior, encasing it with copper-tone stainless-steel lattice work to give the impression that the store is nestled in a bamboo grove.
Spread over two floors, the 488 sq-m interior gives the impression of a discerning family’s mansion rather than a place for shopping. Entering from the front door, the sweeping staircase – a feature characteristic to many Hermès locations – catches the eyes of visitors. The interior is filled with a plethora of Japanese design elements. There are stone floors arranged tatami style, walls covered with stucco made from straw – a traditional carpentry method – as well as wall panelling with bamboo marquetry and nishijin weaving. There is even a small Japanese garden on the upper level, landscaped with pine trees.
While showcasing this artisanal workmanship is sure to make Japanese customers feel at home, items on display highlight the top-notch French craftsmanship to be expected from Hermès. Not-for-sale pieces, such as a whip and sticks, wood carriage artefacts and old prints of horse races hark back to the brand’s equestrian roots, complementing purchasable contemporary goods including skateboards, surfboards and picnic items, in addition to their iconic accessories. For Hermès, the store functions as place to communicate the stories behind this wide array of cultural objects.