Maison Hermès in Gangnam-gu is not just a building. It is an experience that will amaze shoppers who probably go there to check on the latest Hermès styles.
For me, the experience began just a few feet away, in Dosan Park, for a bit of history. Such beautiful greenery dedicated to An Chang-ho, an independence activist whose pen name was Dosan.
His statue stands tall, commemorating his legacy, along with black and white photographs lining up a whole memory lane brightened up by flowering trees. And how could I escape the merry sound of kids strolling, laughing.
Not that Hermès itself, founded in 1837, is not enough history. Through six generations of artisans, Hermès has seen changes, both in retail and in French history.
And now Hermès is all modernity. That is the feeling I got as I gazed at the radical simplicity of this building standing on a squarish piece of land bordered by four streets. The facade has horizontal strips of glass skin as if woven like textile.
The signature glass windows are there, never losing that touch of whimsy in the three-dimensional vignettes that are very witty, very… Hermès.
As I went through the back entrance leading to the gallery and cafe, I was greeted by artistry and more whimsy on the walls, and playful dioramas in glass, noting that no two are ever the same.
This Hermès flagship store in Korea has 10 floors which include their offices. The retail floors are awesome in their spaciousness and design.
The fact that there are 10 other Hermès stores in Korea speaks well of the purchasing power of the Korean market. After all, this Asian superpower boasts its electronics, automobile, telecom and shipbuilding industries.
And may I add, Korea has harnessed its soft power as well, as seen in its K-drama and K-pop exports, putting Korean actors and singers in the global spotlight. The concept of soft power (coined by Joseph Nye in the 1980s) is something the Koreans have mastered.
I was stunned by the array of handbags—from the classic to the latest—that make Hermès a leader in the leather industry. As well as its shoes and clothes for men and women, jewelry, accessories, and now, luggage, looking very modern even as these are pieces of heritage.
The furniture and homewares floor is just awesome. I realized that every piece can be mix-matched and it would still blend in a look that seems simple and clean, and yet detailed. The Hermès plates, for instance, can be used combining several designs. Nothing is really too matchy-matchy.
The Maison Hermès building in Seoul is a lifestyle experience. Sharon Cuneta will surely love it.