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Hermès and Artistic Director Véronique Nichanian chose Chicago to fete its new website for men with an exclusive bash.

FASHION-FORWARD
The brand’s artistic director Véronique Nichanian traveled to Chicago to launch Le MANifeste d’Hermès.

Those who frequent fashion parties generally know what they’re in for: an overheated store packed with glamorous revelers, flutes of lukewarm bubbly and passed hors d’oeuvres that, more often than not, are refused with a polite shake of the head. But Véronique Nichanian, the artistic director of Hermès’ men’s universe (as the house likes to call it), doesn’t like to do what’s expected.

To celebrate the September launch of Le MANifeste d’Hermès, a lively website showcasing the storied brand’s many men’s offerings, Nichanian and her team transformed the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Warehouse into a sprawling fashion playground that brought the site’s digital wit to life. Hermès-clad dancers performing on treadmills, an interactive painting wall allowing guests to duplicate iconic silk prints and an impressive roster of VIPs (including Bulls great Derrick Rose looking sharp in a turtleneck straight from the autumn runway) made it clear this was no run-of-the-mill event, and rightly so: This fete was only happening once, and just in Chicago.

“This is only my second time in Chicago, but for me, it represents exactly a true American city,” says the Paris-based Nichanian, a dynamic legend in the industry. “I feel completely all the values of Chicago. It’s such a big city in terms of activity and business, and so many different kinds of men are here.”

Nichanian is unusual in the industry, in that she has spent more than 25 years focused on the brand’s menswear. While she supervises the teams responsible for the brand’s enviable assortment of men’s shoes, silks, leather goods and fashion accessories, Nichanian is chiefly responsible for the ready-to-wear collection, from the initial spark of inspiration to the final look on the runway.

MANIFEST DESTINY
Models decked in Hermès playfully interacted with guests.

She uses the words “sophistication” and “nonchalance” more than once when describing her aesthetic—along with her commitment to excellence. “For me, luxury is the addition of demanding steps. Otherwise, it’s just a word,” she says. “Everyone is talking about luxury, but at Hermès, we pay attention. We give time to the making of things, and that means something.”

Humor is another value Nichanian shares with her employer, one that is subtly infused into nearly everything she does. “Hermès is an old, very prestigious company, but the first attitude is to never take yourself too seriously,” says Nichanian, whose personality is as warm and inviting as one of her cashmere sweaters. “We’ve done parties all over the world, and it’s always the same attitude: Let’s be crazy and have fun!”

Indeed, for any sharp-eyed guest making his way through the MCA Warehouse that night could have spotted Nichanian standing somewhat apart from the crowd, dancing by herself, enjoying the splendor of an evening she helped create. We’ll raise a glass of well-chilled bubbly to that!