For four days, French luxury design house Hermès took over the historic Hollywood Athletic Club, transforming it into a tangerine-tinged rec hall, complete with a boxing ring and playful fitness classes. Here’s what it was like working out with HermèsFit.
As I walk through the double doors, everything pops like fizzy orange soda. Orange floors. Orange walls. Orange bars and barbells, gleaming like liquified tangerine. I can’t help but meekly yield to the sensory overload. It’s tough, really, to look cool and unrattled by this fun world French luxury design house Hermès created seemingly overnight. How its dreamers and visionaries transformed the historic Hollywood Athletic Club into a playful, four-day fitness pop-up.
The storied building, which played host to the first Emmy Awards in 1949, recently went through a renovation before serving as a rec hall for Hermès. All around, the walls are lined with the brand’s accessories — shoes, hats, bangles, scarves — and decorated with statuesque imagery and mythology-inspired themes. I follow the curved track that runs along the gymnasium, perusing every station; first, the weight-lifting station complete with horse-shaped kettlebells. Then, the juice bar, offering guests fresh-pressed concoctions, and next to it, a climbing wall.
As I turn around the corner, two kids exchange lighthearted volleys on a Ping-Pong table. The paddles? Hermès-printed, of course, each one unique. There are also gymnastic rings for pull ups and fitness mirrors on the other side, but the center attraction — what really anchors the hall — is the boxing ring. I watch as an HermèsFit coach spars with an Hermès scarf-adorned punching bag, showing curious guests how it’s done. Then, they follow suit, the sound of leather smacking leather snapping in the air.
How fun; when do you ever get the opportunity to practice your punches like that — in Hermès gloves, no less. And for free. Yes, that’s the part that I didn’t mention. All of this? It’s free, and so are the fitness classes offered here: kickboxing with bangles, stretching with belts and voguing with hats. I’m here for my first class at the pop-up: carré yoga — a short-and-sweet flow with Hermès scarves.
I make my way down a hallway, which opens up to another room — a space where guests can check in for their class and also peruse some of the brand’s makeup products as they wander around. Necklaces, shoes and bangles are artfully showcased in tangerine-painted lockers. Those are just for display, I’m told. There are real lockers, however, where you can leave your belongings. I tuck my bag and jacket inside the locker, and walk to one of the two studios open for class. What to expect? I have no idea.
The silk is cool, soft but full-bodied. I roll the edge of the carré scarf between my fingers, and then unfurl it on my mat. It lets out a whisper of a rustle as a thrilling scene unfolds; jockeys racing their chariots among a constellation of stars and planets. Created by artist Ugo Bienvenu, the “space derby” print evokes superheroes from mid-twentieth-century comic books, creating a fantastical world that feels otherworldly, quirky, one-of-a-kind.
That’s the beauty of Hermès silk scarf, known in French as the carré, which translates to “square.” First created in 1937, carrés slowly became an iconic symbol of luxury and class, worn by the crème de la crème of society. It’s easy to see their appeal, and why they’ve endured the test of time. Every carré is made the same way it was back then: it’s created with the highest-quality silk, its designs dreamed up by a slew of artists and then silk-screened by hand. Its hems are hand-stitched and hand-rolled. Altogether, a single carré comes together in six to 18 months.
All to say, the Hermès carré is a coveted fashion accessory; I was almost 16 years old when I first felt the pull. What would it be like to own one? I’ve always wondered. I’d never even touched a carré, and here I am about to break a sweat with one! Truth to be told: I’m a little nervous. Even though I’ve been practicing yoga for a little over a year now, I’ve never done anything like this.
After I unglue my eyes from my space derby carré, I survey the room from my lotus position. The vaulted ceiling boasting the building’s original frescoes, the arched windows and the light spilling through them, the ornate, bronze chandeliers. And of course, Hermès’ display of scarves hanging from wooden gymnastic rings. Everything’s stunning, and thoughtfully executed. There’s also the convenience factor. Don’t worry about bringing a mat or a towel. Forgot your bottle of water? Hermès has thought of that, too. All we have to do now is work out!
Led by Frances Brower, a fitness-and-yoga-guru clad in an orange tracksuit (because, of course), we’re guided through a lovely flow. Carrés function as yoga straps; we use them to stretch, open the shoulders and hamstrings, and lean just a little more into challenging poses. In some moments, however, when we swirl the scarves around, it’s simply just for show. I love this class, its dancing spirit. Day one? Success!
Kickin’ it with Bangles
I return the next day with a lot more confidence, now that I know what to expect. A few of my close friends join me; I give them a quick tour as a HermèsFit veteran. Today, we’re here for “kicking boxing with bangles,” which is exactly what it sounds like — shadow-boxing with Hermès bangles. At the check-in area, a staff member whips out a tray full of the luxury brand’s enamel bangles. “Do I just pick whichever one I want?” I ask for permission. She nods and smiles; we’re allowed two narrow bangles per wrist, one if we opt for the thickest size.
Back in the studio I go! In unison with other guests, we start punching the air, the clanking of bangles echoing in the room. The heart-pumping routine incorporates lunges and squats, mixed in with jabs and speed punches. Sure, it’s not the longest fitness class I’ve ever taken. Start to finish, the whole thing lasts for about 20 minutes (as did the yoga session), but it’s still a thrilling — and downright fun — experience.
I leave the playful, oh-so-orange world of HermèsFit with a single sentiment: I wish the luxury brand would make a permanent fixture out of this. I would come back, again and again — if only just to swish, twirl and stretch with carrés again.