Hermès transformed a hangar at Haneda Airport into a mini pop-up city.
Hermes: The nature of men
FROM MILAN TO MANILA - David Milan (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2016 - 12:00am

Each year, aside from its spring/summer and fall/winter runway shows in Paris, Hermès stages massive-scale production events that are elaborately made and “experience engaging” in different parts of the world. It’s a unique and creative way of seeing the iconic luxury house’s aesthetic as seen through the eyes of the respective host country. From New York to Dubai, it’s also the French brand’s way of strategically positioning in different key markets.

This year, Hermès travels to the Land of The Rising Sun to mount The Nature of Men,” an event that seeks to put the spotlight on the multi-faceted world of the label’s men’s collections, from ready-to-wear to accessories.

Looking back in history, the relationship between Hermès and Japan spans many generations. As far as 1911, in fact, when then Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial family Prince Kan’in Kotohito commissioned the legendary house to supply saddles to the Japanese cavalry brigade. By 1961, Hermès opened its market to the public, expanding its presence to an impressive 40-store stronghold all over the country today. With controversial films like the live-action Ghost in the Shell coming out, the much-anticipated venue of the next Olympics, and its tourism at an all-time high, all roads lead to Japan.

“I first came to Japan 30 years ago and I’ve returned 52 or 53 times. I love Tokyo. I have so many friends in this city. I should live here, really — I’m not even joking,” says Veronique Nichanian, the esteemed head of Hermès menswear who has been in the position for more than two decades. Nichanian returns to the country after months of planning for “The Nature of Men” event.

With over a thousand VIP guests including the brand’s most loyal Tokyoites clienteles and international press, the event was held at a hangar at the Haneda International airport in Tokyo. The brand transformed the massive 30,000-square-foot venue into a mini-city concept that was inspired by visual artist Nigel Peake.

 

“I took one of Nigel Peake’s illustrations of a future utopia, a fantastical city, and built the event around that,” Nichanian explains. “Each installation reflects a different theme that I’m interested in, from details and sensuality to prints. You know, this kind of event is a very important opportunity to explore the values behind the clothes. We can talk directly to the client, they can have a direct experience of the brand: they can touch the material and understand how I work,” she adds.

Prior to the unveiling of the life-sized mini metropolis, guests were seated in another part of the hangar where they literally installed a catwalk runway on the runway. The event started with the presentation of the Hermès fall/winter ’16 collection where not only models walked but also some of Japan’s male celebrities including singer Atsushi Yanaka, actor Shota Matsuda, and the very stylish Ry?hei Kurosawa aka Akira of the boy band Exile.

The front-row view was a sight to behold — different characters and personalities all dressed to impress. We are, after all, in one of the fashion capitals this side of the world. Actress Rila Fukushima, Korean pop star and Philippine TV personality Dara were also present at the event. Stylish women (and a handful of men) carrying their Birkin and Kelly bags could also be seen. A group of Japanese ladies in traditional kimonos with a Himalayan Croc Birkin each turned heads wherever they passed.

After the 10-minute runway show and designer Veronique Nichanian took a bow, “The Nature of Men” installations were finally unveiled as a massive curtain covering it falls. These nine “installations” served as the “districts” of the high-tech pop-up city theme. The set-up was almost labyrinth-like, where you go from one area to another, each one precisely showcasing architecture, technology, culture and fashion.

The first room called “Expression of Time” was a museum-like setup where eight jackets were displayed in glass frames like artifacts. The jackets, owned by loyal customers (some as far as 20 years), each tells a unique story about its owner. Beside it was the “Bespoke Wall” that features a deconstructed suit in 144 pieces and a button-down shirt pattern in 42 pieces. It’s a beautifully dramatic way of illustrating how intricate each Hermès creation is made.

In one room was the “Silk Records” installation. Offering eye candy for vinyl junkies, the different LPs displayed were a musical retrospective of tracks used in the Hermès men’s runway shows with cover sleeves printed using the designs of 72 silk scarf patterns from the last 12 years. One room titled “Nothing But Shoe” was an installation in which the ceiling, walls and floor were filled with Hermès shoes. The idea was a window into the mind of a collector. Unable to choose just one of the 101 pairs he has in his collection, he decides to go barefoot.

Elsewhere was a sort of viewing deck called “Hermèsidoscopes” wherein guests could see gaze through a lens to a kaleidoscopic image of the watches and accessories collections. The rest of the installations included a mirrored hall with neon rainbow lights that was social media bait with its Instagram-perfect background, a gallery-like area where framed fabrics from cashmere to lambskin were displayed (you were even allowed to touch), and a floor-to-ceiling LED screen that displayed an interactive video of the men’s bags collection.

The “Nature of Men” event shows the parallel universe between the brand’s rich heritage and its present. Hermès has built its multi-generational legacy on exceptional craftsmanship and subtle perfection and, like any great city in the world, it will continue to evolve through time as it welcomes the future.

 

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