Luxury design house Hermès takes to the sea.
By Jill Bobrow
The Hermès brand lives and breathes luxury lifestyle. The French company is well established in the realms of equestrian, luxury villas, private jets and high-end automobiles. Who knew it also plays discreetly in the world of yacht interior design?
When you think Hermès, you might visualize boldly designed scarves and its signature orange boxes, but the company’s talents run much deeper. Founded in 1837 in Paris by Thierry Hermès, the company’s first clients came looking for unique horse-carriage harnesses or saddles. With time, the company—still an independent family-operated business—evolved and expanded from leather goods to couture, jewelry, home furnishings and lifestyle. Hermès has been making yachting and beachwear collections since at least the 1930s and has been quietly involved on various yacht and tender projects since the turn of the 21st century. Perhaps it’s no wonder given who occupies a key position in the company.
Axel de Beaufort is the director of design and engineering at Hermès. Sitting in the library of the Yacht Club de Monaco, he seems perfectly at home. Tanned with tussled curly brown hair, a tidy beard and a youthful demeanor, de Beaufort looks like a sailor, which he is. He particularly enjoys racing. His perfectly tapered shirt and fitted jacket are clues that his career path has segued.
De Beaufort started out working as a naval architect for VPLP Design before forming his own yacht design and project management company, NACIRA Design, designing racing sailing yachts. Now the spokesperson for the bespoke division of Hermès, he is in charge of special orders and singular projects related to private plane interiors, car interiors, bikes and yachts—“objects of mobility,” he would say.
Hermès works with clients on a one-to-one basis to outfit their yachts. The company does not advertise this service. Its focus is on brand heritage, building consumer confidence through inherent values and impeccable craftsmanship. “We simply offer our service,” says de Beaufort. “People come to us.”
Recently, Hermès built a pair of 40-foot (12.2-meter) beach boats, sail and power. It does custom upholstery aboard yachts, and a couple of years ago, one of its clients asked Hermès to renew the entire interior of his 85-foot (26-meter) motoryacht.
Understatement is part of the Hermès mystique. “Hermès’ artistic vision is the strong pillar of the house,” says de Beaufort. “We take a lot of time to find the right artist for every object made at Hermès. We don’t try to be trendy, nor do we compare ourselves with others.” He adds, “We don’t look for quantity. We only accept projects that appeal to us.”