One-of-a-kind shopping experiences embedded in the local area and culture of an architecturally ambitious city within a city

Hermès—a brand known for continually redefining luxury—will be opening its fourth standalone location in Tokyo with its Azabudai Hills store. Every Hermès store places great importance on the local culture and local customers, which is why no two stores are the same. Florian Craen, an executive vice president at Hermès International, explains what drew the brand to Azabudai Hills and the experience that the store will provide customers at this new location.

Portrait by Ryo Yoshiya
illustration by Geoff McFetridge

In each of our stores around the world, we consider it important to connect to the people and culture of that location. No store can show the entire Hermès collection. That is why every store is a house of objects curated by the store that offers a unique set of items catering to the local people and culture. By harmonizing the store with its location, we can provide every customer with a perfectly tailored experience.

Experiences rooted in locality

Inside the Hermès silk workshop in Pierre-Bénite, South of Lyon ©Maxime Verret

We see ourselves as manufacturers of beautiful objects defined by creativity, craftsmanship, and quality materials. Creating the finest products from the finest materials and with an artisanal touch: that is what Hermès cares about. But we are not satisfied with simply manufacturing beautiful bags and scarfs. We have a more comprehensive vision that involves providing true richness and unexpected joy in forms that cater to the lifestyles of the people living in that location.

Shaping the “ideal 21st-century downtown”

Inside the Hermès silk workshop in Pierre-Bénite, South of Lyon ©Maxime Verret

When I first learned of the Azabudai Hills project, I was surprised by how much it aligned with the Hermès vision. The architectural ambition in particular was fascinating to me. It’s a city within a city, not just a succession of buildings. This unique concept strongly resonated with me.

I like this idea of a compact city where you can walk around as you please, rest in a nature-rich environment full of parks and trees, and enjoy the high-quality art and buildings dotting the landscape. There are offices, residences, and shops, as well as a school and museums. It is, in a way, the ideal 21 st-century downtown. It is rare to see something this comprehensive and large anywhere in the world. You can find large-scale development projects all across Asia, but you never really see the center of a city being reinvented in such a way. The opening of Azabudai Hills will completely change the urban environment here in central Tokyo, and I think it’s wonderful that we get to play a role in it. We were looking for a local, quiet, high-end destination, so I felt that this project would align with our vision.

Imbuing Azabudai with a warm glow

Ginza Maison Hermès ©Nacása & Partners Inc.

An iconic storefront can affect the cityscape. For example, Maison Hermès in Ginza is located inside a distinctive glass block of a building designed by Renzo Piano. At night, it looks like a bright lantern—in fact, we do refer to it as the Lantern of Hermès—that shines a beautiful light on the streets of Ginza.

The Azabudai Hills store is also in an all-glass building. But unlike the very flamboyant and visibly shining lantern in Ginza, I would like the Azabudai Hills store to be more like a candle. I would like it to glow warmly as it guides those who have come to seek the store for the exceptional one-to-one relationships they can only experience here. Like with all our other stores, the Azabudai Hills store will feature an interior designed by RDAI—the French architecture and design studio led by Denis Montel. It is a two-story store with ample and discreet spaces for people to sit down and spend their time. There is also a rooftop that connects to the second floor. There is still some work being done on the design, but I can promise you that it will be a store full of life and love that will add some lively color to the local social scene.

Ginza Maison Hermès ©Nacása & Partners Inc.

Azabudai is geographically, economically, and socially very attractive for us. Of course, we need to have highly visible and iconic locations such as our Ginza store, but we also need to have more inconspicuous and low-key signature locations. It’s important to have stores in high-traffic locations, but we are not interested in simply drawing in crowds of customers.

We want to offer a high-quality environment where our customers can spend their time, and Azabudai is the perfect location. Most Hermès stores are located in department stores, which makes an opportunity like this unique. This was one of the key reasons for choosing to build a store in Azabudai Hills.

We expect Azabudai Hills to have more local foot traffic. Many of our customers will probably live nearby or work in Azabudai Hills. And with several hotels and embassies in the neighborhood, we’re bound to see many foreign visitors as well. Customers can expect a one-of-a-kind experience that is fully imbedded into the local area and culture.


Executive Vice President of Hermès international / Craen is Executive Vice President of Sales and Distribution at Hermès. He joined the brand in 1997 and became managing director for North Asia in 2009. Craen was appointed to his current position in 2013, becoming a member of the Hermès Executive Committee.