HermÃ¨s Perfume Library on Liberty Street, N.Y by RDAI and RF Studio architects
The first stand-alone perfumery from the worldâ€™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, HermÃ¨s fragrances have evolved into a stunning portfolio of scents that manage somehowâ€”truly in a way no other fragrance house has ever managedâ€”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, HermÃ¨s is giving the collectionâ€”from classics such as CalÃ¨che and Eau d'HermÃ¨s to the beyond-luxe Eau bath-and-body concoctions to all niche Hermessence perfumesâ€”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 HermÃ¨s since 2003, about the stand-alone perfume library, he explained, â€œFor me itâ€™s quite an achievement. Itâ€™s funny, itâ€™s difficult to be humble at a moment like this because seeing all these perfumes around meâ€¦. But, you know, itâ€™s really about the products. They are the stars.â€
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 (HermÃ¨s 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 MÃ©diterranÃ©e, 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 perfumeryâ€™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 wasnâ€™t obvious before, it is now crystal clear that HermÃ¨s is its own universe. â€œEleven years ago, when we began [making perfumes], we didnâ€™t know exactly what the outcome would be. We had an idea, a good idea, and it worked! So we kept going,â€ says Ellena.
And when asked about the actual process between himself and the house of HermÃ¨s: â€œItâ€™s all very simple, because the answers and the decisions are made only between myself and the president. We donâ€™t do market testing, because we just donâ€™t [nor should they care, they are HermÃ¨s!], and the reason why it works is because itâ€™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 HermÃ¨s from 1978 until 2006], and that same logic is still applied today.â€ Adding further to his point, Christine Nagel, the house perfumer whoâ€™s been working very closely with Ellena for the last couple of years, validates this fact.
â€œThe company really trusts the artistic creators.â€¦ Itâ€™s rare that the decision comes between the creator and the director only. Thatâ€™s it. No one else! And that just doesn't exist anywhere else.â€
If itâ€™s any clear indication, most perfumers work on maybe 300 perfume briefs per year, where as at HermÃ¨s 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 itâ€™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 CÃ©line Ellena, perfumer of Parfume de la Maison and who happens to be Jean-Claudeâ€™s daughter, which was inspired by that uniquely New York phenomenon, the corner deli festooned with flowers. â€œWalking down the street, you stumble onto corner shops with shelves of flowers,â€ she says. â€œThe 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.â€¦ Homes protect dreamers,â€ she explains. As for the name of the candle, itâ€™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 thatâ€™s really what HermÃ¨s perfumes are all about, â€œbecause every scent has a story and listening to that story here at 225 Liberty Street, the power of the fragrance becomes the destinationâ€™s souvenir,â€ Ellena further expresses.
The marble-clad back room is dedicated to Le Bain HermÃ¨s, and all manner of balms, washes, creams, shampoos, and famous soaps stock the shelves. New Yorkersâ€™ 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 librariansâ€), and get all the whimsical stories behind every scentâ€”they will take you on every journey that is on display. As Jean-Claude Ellena punctuates so eloquently, â€œSmell is a word, perfume is literature.â€
RDAI architects, RF Studio architects, HermÃ¨s Perfume Library, Daniel Gordon, Hermessence, perfumes, Jean-Louis Dumas