Hermès private Miami event combines interactive installations, illusions

When Hermès puts on a party, expect champagne to flow, aerialists to perform, and models to pose in interactive, illusion-filled, theatrical installations, adorned in an array of silks, cashmere, and leather.

The French luxury design house known for its expensive Birkin bags and lively patterned silk scarves and ties, is hosting “A Man’s World, Miami” Friday evening in the Design District, an invitation-only soiree designed to showcase its universe of men’s products, while entertaining its guests with playful illusions.

Hermès has transformed the Moore Building for the four-hour event, the company’s first such celebration in the United States and only its third in the world, following “A Man’s World” events in Beijing in 2011 and in Paris in 2012.

“We’re really excited about Miami, and particularly the Design District, being a center for culture and the arts,” said Peter Malachi, Hermès senior vice president of communications, based in New York. “It’s this incredible coming together of retail, design, and fashion, in a city that is really on the frontier between two continents — Latin America and North America.”

Friday’s event, which carries the theme “a sporting life” — the design house’s overall theme for 2013 — is a collaboration between Men’s Artistic Director Véronique Nichanian, who is based in Paris, and Buenos Aires-based artist Leandro Erlich, who designed the conceptual installations, each with a certain scene, infused with a sense of humor and sporting elegance.

Think athletic male models dressed in Hermès, wearing scuba masks, juggling or holding skateboards, inside six wood-and-mirror-paneled, faux — but realistic looking — elevators created for the event. With music playing in the background, the elevator doors will open and close, each time with a different assortment of models inside.

The event is a way for Hermès, one of the only remaining French family-owned design houses, to thank its clients, akin to giving them a gift of an experience, Nichanian said.

It’s also a way to build brand loyalty, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y. “One of the greatest ways to connect with the consumer today, outside of social media, is to create a social event,” he said. “What you are seeing is the newfound way of going back in time, giving the consumer and the media the ability to share the essence of the brand.”

And it’s a major coup for the Design District, which is being transformed into a luxury shopping destination under Dacra Chief Executive and President Craig Robins.

“The fact that Miami is now being seen as a very important destination for fashion brands to do large scale events is another major step for our city,” Robins said.

About 600 Hermès clients, members of Miami’s arts and design scene, socialites, and Hermès employees and media from around the world are expected to attend the private event, Malachi said. They will be treated to delicacies like lobster and foie gras as they move from space to space.

A highlight of the evening will be the 11 installations on three floors, incorporating men’s products, from clothing to shoes, watches, jewelry, and fragrances. Several of the installations will be digitally interactive and illusionary, Erlich said.

“It’s a trompe l’ oeil effect,” Nichanian said.

Upon entering the event, guests will be given a radio frequency ID with a chip inside carrying their name, which will allow them to be recognized as they view the installations, Malachi said.

Attendees will be greeted with champagne as aerialists, dressed in Hermès attire, walk along beams above their heads. The design house has installed mirrors atop the floors on part of the lower level, so the movement of the aerialists will be reflected as guests walk between the mirrors.

“It’s almost like you’re on the beam, as well,” Erlich said.

A team of more than 150 have been working to put on the event, including a production company, a choreographer, dancers, and actors brought in from New York, as well as 31 male models cast in Miami.

Nichanian visited Miami in February and, taken with its energy, chose it for the event. She toured the Moore Building with Erlich and decided “it would be fun to play with the space and transform it.”

On Thursday, models and aerialists were rehearsing as crew members put the finishing touches on the conceptual displays.

Hermès executives appeared aghast when asked the budget for the event and demurely declined to comment.

Founded in Paris in 1837, Hermès generated $1.1 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2013, up 12.8 percent from the same period of 2012. Of that, $173.5 million was derived from the Americas, up 11 percent. Hermès has 376 stores worldwide, including 27 in the United States.

Hermès closed its store in the Bal Harbour Shops and opened a temporary shop in the Design District in February, with plans to open a larger, flagship store in the Design District in December 2014.