A chat with Monsieur Denis Montel, the architect who builds the world of Hermès

Ground floor at the new Munich Hermès store. Photo (also photo on the slider) by Christian Kain

On a sunny day in Munich we meet Denis Montel from the Paris-based architectural firm RDAI for breakfast at the newly opened HERMÈS boutique on Maximilianstrasse. Monsieur Montel is the managing director of RDAI, where he co-directs the design and completion of Hermès boutiques and houses all over the world.

IRMA: When building a new Hermès boutique, how do you start?
DENIS MONTEL: We look of the present structure and of course at the location and surrounding area and then we take different elements which we have in every Hermès boutique around the world and start to involve them into this new structure.

IRMA: Which elements do I find in every Hermès boutique?
DENIS MONTEL: The mosaic floor is our main signature detail, with the Hermès emblem right at the entrance, the wrought-iron lattice at the entry, the lights at the entrance ceiling and the usage of wood and brushed steel.

IRMA: Are these materials, especially wood and steel, from a manufacturer in Germany? Do you work with local materials?
DENIS MONTEL: In this boutique not yet, but we will start using more and more local materials for our stores. At the moment we work with French manufactures that have been working for the house of Hermès for a long time.

IRMA: I especially like the way the basement floor which has no daylight looks and feels as if it is flooded with sun. How do you achieve this?
DENIS MONTEL: That is mostly because of the high ceiling and the use of lighting. Lighting is very important, this is also why even though the shop is broken down into different compartments, it feels and looks transparent. We worked with wood panels where you can look through and have a feeling that when entering the shop you see everything at once, but when you go for example into the jewelry section you still feel privacy. This was important because of the large space of this boutique.

IRMA: There is a trend that luxury stores place gastronomic venues within their shops and I know you have a salon de thé in Paris. Where else in the world can you wine & dine in a Hermès world?
DENIS MONTEL: We have 4 separate bars in Seoul, Shanghai, Ginza Tokyo and Paris. You can visit these venues also when not shopping at Hermès. They are separate structures but we designed them and they reflect the signature of Hermès.

IRMA: You are a lucky man working for a fashion luxury house with a great emphasis on creativity and craftsmanship. Do you have a partner in crime with Monsieur Axel Dumas, CEO of Hermès since 2013?
DENIS MONTEL: Oh yes, we have the pleasure to work with the best materials we can get and enjoy lots of artistic freedom. Every Hermès boutique is completely different, although we use similar elements.

DENIS MONTEL: How do you think is the shop integrated within Munich?
IRMA: I think it is in a perfect location, actually the best part of the Maximilianstrasse. You have the opera house on the opposite side and you are in the historic mint arcades, a perfect match for the house of Hermès. And the arcades beautifully frame the shop windows.

Jasmin Khezri from IRMASWORLD with architect Denis Montel