Hermès Perfume Library on Liberty Street, N.Y by RDAI and RF Studio architects
The first stand-alone perfumery from the world’s ultimate luxury brand opens today downtown, on 225 Liberty Street at Brookfield Place, New York City.
Once the subtle secret of Birkin buyers and Le Bristol regulars, Hermès fragrances have evolved into a stunning portfolio of scents that manage somehow—truly in a way no other fragrance house has ever managed—to all feel as a piece. Each scent is strikingly original, to be sure, but the common thread between them is palpable.
For the first time, Hermès is giving the collection—from classics such as Calèche and Eau d'Hermès to the beyond-luxe Eau bath-and-body concoctions to all niche Hermessence perfumes—its own boutique. But it is not just a boutique, it is a perfume library, to be precise, that opens today at Brookfield Place, the luxury mall in lower Manhattan across the street from One World Trade Center.
When asked, Jean Claude-Ellena, one of the most important and revered master perfumers today and the nose for the house of Hermès since 2003, about the stand-alone perfume library, he explained, “For me it’s quite an achievement. It’s funny, it’s difficult to be humble at a moment like this because seeing all these perfumes around me…. But, you know, it’s really about the products. They are the stars.”
Designed in collaboration with RDAI and RF Studio architects and rendered brilliantly in concrete, wood, and metal, the 1000-foot, sleekly modern boutique is worth visiting even if perfume is not of your interest. The space is entered through a symbolic garden (Hermès fans understand the importance of gardens to the brand as a whole and especially the perfumes; their best-selling Jardins series, which began with Un Jardin en Méditerranée, composed by Ellena in 2003, continues to this day, with more to come).
The garden features a staircase that leads nowhere, and a video-projection collage called Oasis, by Brooklyn-based artist Daniel Gordon, is prominently displayed.
Past the front garden, the perfumery’s spaces recall the rooms of a house, with a center library housing all the collections, including the exquisite home-scent offerings in the thinnest white porcelain, glazed on the inside in stunning colors. Here, you can also customize a Hermessence in the leather casing of your choice and have it monogrammed.
If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now crystal clear that Hermès is its own universe. “Eleven years ago, when we began [making perfumes], we didn’t know exactly what the outcome would be. We had an idea, a good idea, and it worked! So we kept going,” says Ellena.
And when asked about the actual process between himself and the house of Hermès: “It’s all very simple, because the answers and the decisions are made only between myself and the president. We don’t do market testing, because we just don’t [nor should they care, they are Hermès!], and the reason why it works is because it’s always been about the craftsmanship and the artists of the house [in all facets], a philosophy that began with Jean-Louis Dumas way back when [he was then chairman and artistic director of Hermès from 1978 until 2006], and that same logic is still applied today.” Adding further to his point, Christine Nagel, the house perfumer who’s been working very closely with Ellena for the last couple of years, validates this fact.
“The company really trusts the artistic creators.… It’s rare that the decision comes between the creator and the director only. That’s it. No one else! And that just doesn't exist anywhere else.”
If it’s any clear indication, most perfumers work on maybe 300 perfume briefs per year, where as at Hermès it may be only 3. And a fragrance is released only when they believe it to be exceptional, because they can take their time and release when it’s truly perfect and ready. And in the world of perfumes (and everything else for that matter), having time to create is the ultimate luxury.
There is also a new fragrance candle exclusive to this location called the Shop Around the Corner, created by Céline Ellena, perfumer of Parfume de la Maison and who happens to be Jean-Claude’s daughter, which was inspired by that uniquely New York phenomenon, the corner deli festooned with flowers. “Walking down the street, you stumble onto corner shops with shelves of flowers,” she says. “The huge bouquets of lilies and eucalyptus branches smell wonderfully bright, like the lights of New York that sparkle, and I wanted to create a scent that is sweet and calm but holds a vibrant energy that you can be home with.… Homes protect dreamers,” she explains. As for the name of the candle, it’s based on a romantic-comedy film by Ernest Lubitsch called exactly that, about two male employees working in a leather-goods shop in Budapest and falling for the same girl, which was based on the 1937 Hungarian stage play Parfumerie. Talk about a story coming full circle! But that’s really what Hermès perfumes are all about, “because every scent has a story and listening to that story here at 225 Liberty Street, the power of the fragrance becomes the destination’s souvenir,” Ellena further expresses.
The marble-clad back room is dedicated to Le Bain Hermès, and all manner of balms, washes, creams, shampoos, and famous soaps stock the shelves. New Yorkers’ bathroom cabinets just got about 7,000 times more glamorous. So we suggest that you go for a walk, explore that shop around the corner, speak to the sales associates (who are also known as "perfume librarians”), and get all the whimsical stories behind every scent—they will take you on every journey that is on display. As Jean-Claude Ellena punctuates so eloquently, “Smell is a word, perfume is literature.”
RDAI architects, RF Studio architects, Hermès Perfume Library, Daniel Gordon, Hermessence, perfumes, Jean-Louis Dumas