Hermès Builds a High Tech, Pop-Up City in Tokyo That Lasts a Day
The 30,000-square foot pleasure palace featured a real fashion show, but there were also plenty of digital fireworks—and even vinyl records.
On Friday, Oct. 14, Japan grew by one city.
Less than 24 hours later, it was already gone.
Hermès, the French luxury house, hosted an exclusive show and party for over 1,000 VIP guests at a 30,000 square-foot pop-up event at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport.
“The Nature of Men,” a so-called immersive event, kicked off with a fashion show staged on an actual runway. Models showed off the Fall 2016 men’s ready to wear collection, currently in stores. Fashionable attendees, including loyal customers, arrived decked out in in-season Hermès looks.
The current collection features lush sweaters and outerwear in shades like raspberry and turquoise as well as slim suits in varying black tones, and reflects how the contemporary man lives, according to Véronique Nichanian, Hermès men’s artistic director. “I always wanted to talk about men in movement, the men who travel, who do a lot of things,” Nichanian said of the impetus for her collections. “In this venue, we are in the best place to talk about movement.”
After the runway show, guests entered the “Nature of Men” pop-up, which played on themes of architecture, technology, and culture.
Modeled after a micro-city, artist installations of varying scale featured interactive experiences, such as a mirrored hall with neon rainbow lights that was instant social media bait, a luxe craft bar, and a Hermès-themed record shop.
The record shop, created in collaboration with veteran music executive Thierry Planelle, was decorated with spots of neon and turntables, and came fully stocked with LP album covers featuring 72 silk scarf patterns from the past 12 years. Vinyl discs played songs from that season’s runway show. Guests were able to pick up an album, take it over over to a record player and listen.
“When you see a scarf, very often it does look like an LP record cover,” said Christophe Goineau, Hermès artistic director, men’s silk. “The idea was to take one track from the show and to print the disc. That makes the pattern alive in a way.
“When I see colors or patterns, sometimes I can hear music,” Goineau adds.
The mini-city concept was based off an illustration by visual artist and longtime Hermès collaborator Nigel Peake. Peake, an architect by training, drew an abstract cityscape of jutting angles and stripes that was blown up into a life-size immersive experience. (The illustration appears on the “Nature of Men” capsule collection, which includes a scarf, shoes and apparel.)
Peake’s design, an artful medley of colors, angles, and shapes, is not unlike Tokyo itself, where LED-streaked gleaming high rises sit next to jumbles of stacked micro-bars, cramped ramen joints and winding labyrinthine streets, and where men in black suits and power ties share sidewalks with girls who match their hair to their pastel neo-Victorian doll dresses.
That contrast and tension, inherent in the cityscape of Tokyo, is referenced in Peake’s design. Look to the circles, he notes.
“I very much enjoy a circle in the design of the fabric of the city,” Peake said. “Architecture is often generated from a line. So to introduce a curve, it causes a little bit of rupture. It makes it sing a little bit more than just straight line, straight line, straight line.”
One of the artist installations combined architecture and technology in a playful way: by creating live digital graffiti.
Guests took a moving photo of themselves, chose a Hermès background pattern and then walked over to a blank wall. Using an enhanced paint roller, users “painted” the wall with a moving image.
“Infrared LEDs are embedded inside the paint roller,” artist Bruno Levy said. “The computer sees the position of the paint roller, and outputs a stroke of video back onto the wall. It allows us to project onto any surface and collage video into real time.”
Levy, along with Blake Shaw, is the co-founder of Sweatshoppe, an interactive multimedia collective.
“It’s the same technology that goes into artificial intelligence robots or drones or the face detection on your camera,” Shaw said. “But we’ve appropriated it for doing this kind of art installation.”
Once the party ended, everything was gone for good. Even those ultra-covetable collectible records. (A small version of the project lives on in the window of the Hermès Ginza flagship.)
The event was planned from the start to be a one-night spectacle.
“It’s true that we worked since last March, so it’s a long road to a 12-minute show and a night for the party,” Nichanian said. “The short things are very intense. It’s important.
“Hermès is a time house,” she added. “We slow down the time and we express a different time.
“It’s a story that we play with our friends all over the world.”
Video by David Allen.