Cultural adaptation by Hermès
On March 6, 2021, Hermès staged an online show that was designed to showcase the brand’s Fall/Winter 2021 collections in three iconic cities, New York, Paris, and Shanghai.
An expressive abstraction, the show successfully took the luxury brand’s new collections on a whirlwind of body movements around the globe while also adapting the brand’s messaging ever so slightly to address each location’s respective culture.
This was achieved mainly by two means. First, Hermès hired a different team (including choreographers and set designers) to produce each segment separately. In doing so, the luxury brand allowed the innate cultural intelligence that these creatives possess come to the foreground by articulating a unique set of body movements that are fit for each location and culture. Secondly, the luxury brand hired culturally diverse talent to model its collections.
Body movement is the combination of individual physiology and adopted patterns of collective culture. (More details on this in Rethinking Luxury Fashion, Chapter 7).
Creatives have been trained to interpret culture by establishing relationships between objects and people, including through movement in space. Movement in space has its own materiality and is a tool that allows us to connect our cognition to our bodies in spaces that are already culturally defined. This is exactly what happens when one is abroad and feels “foreign” or “at home” in an unfamiliar environment.
By staging three different versions of the show to unravel in time across the globe, Hermès managed to illustrate how the brand’s luxury fashions belong to each one of the three worlds and express a sensibility that can be made one's own. Cultural adaptation is an area that many brands still need to master.