Hubert Burda Media

The Authentic Hermès with Eric Festy

Eric Festy, the Singapore-based Regional Director for the Middle East and South Asia talked about Hermès Heritage and the French Maison’s charm with Prestige.

Eric Festy, the Singapore-based Regional Director for the Middle East and South Asia, visited Jakarta in March for the reopening of the Hermès store at Pacific Place. The 17sqm luxury boutique has been completely renovated by RDAI, the Parisian architectural agency under the artistic direction of Denis Montel. Incorporating rattan and cherry wood behind its existing glass façade, the refurbished store features a palette of the colours of nature: beige, yellow and saffron notes, as well as soft green tones.

Coinciding with the opening was “Hermès Heritage – Rouges Hermès”, a month-long touring exhibition exploring the history of the house founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. The exhibition featured not only leather goods but also clothing and home accessories, highlights of an interview:

Why did Hermès decide to put on touring exhibitions, and what does this one say about the house and its history?

It’s been a tradition for Hermès to do exhibitions since the late 19th century. We have always liked to travel around the world to show important pieces. We have won international prizes for our exhibitions in the past. I remember soon after I joined the company (in 1993, as a marketing coordinator) being involved in creating an exhibition of our scarves.

Our exhibitions are important to us because as a company, we have something to say. We are storytellers. Most of our designs and collections have a story to tell. If you look at the back of my tie, you’ll see it has little faces on it. It is small, whimsical details like these that help make us unique as a company in the luxury business.

In what other ways is Hermès unique?

One of our main characteristics is that although we operate internationally, we are not the same wherever you go. We don’t forget that every market is different and has a unique clientele with different tastes. Every store is different, because each one incorporates design details that apply to the city in which it is located. For instance, here at Pacific Place the architects have used a lot of rattan, a local material that’s important to Indonesians.

Each store has the freedom to choose its own assortment from the various collections created by the Hermès designers. We renew 70 percent of our collections every six months with new designs, new colours and materials. We give the stores this authority because no one knows better than they do what items will appeal to their particular clients.

That’s why the assortment you will see in Singapore is different from the one in Jakarta, and why it’s different again in New York or in Paris, or wherever you go. This is the biggest difference we have from our competitors. It’s the same principle with our window displays. Every store, wherever it is, has a unique window.

Talking of famous shop windows, when was the first time you saw the Faubourg Saint-Honoré store, and what were your impressions?

It was in December 1993, when I had been asked to help the selling team with the Christmas items. I pushed the door open and saw a joyful mess. The store was the most attractive bazaar, a real pleasure for all the senses. It felt friendly, more like walking into a house than a store.

Bruno Gaudichon (curator of “Hermès Heritage – Rouges Hermès”) says that Hermès, still family-owned, lives close to its roots on a daily basis. Is this a quality that other luxury houses may have lost?

We have become much more international since I first joined the company. In the past 20 years, we have opened new stores in many countries. But Hermès has never forgotten that it began as a harness maker. The things we made had quality and craftsmanship. They were solid. They were beautiful, but they also had a function. We’re still doing this today.