How Did Chloe Kim, Lucky Blue Smith, and Alison Roman End Up at an Aspen Ranch With Hermès?

Photography by Vincent Tullo. All images courtesy of Hermès.

“What does Hermès get out of this?” That question was posed by one of the brand’s most valued clients as he sat down for an eight-course dinner in Aspen early last December. He was, in a word, confused. Who could blame him? He, along with 50 other guests, who included actors, artists, chefs, influencers, athletes, and fellow clients, had been invited by the brand to attend a two-day jaunt in the luxurious mountain town.

They were expected at the five-star Hotel Jerome, with instructions to dress warmly, and scant other details on the trip’s itinerary. Not even Hermès’s triumvirate of creative directors—Véronique Nichanian, Christophe Goineau, and Axel de Beaufort, who flew in from Paris to partake in the adventure billed as 'a discovery of the men’s universe'—knew what to expect. “It’s a scavenger hunt,” Nichanian said. “We’re participating, but we don’t know what’s going on.”

After more than 30 years at the helm of the Hermès men’s collection, Nichanian is used to these kinds of surprises. She joined the company a year after Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermès’s former chairman and artistic director (and father of current artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas) dreamed up the brand’s first annual “theme” in 1987.

In 2023, it was “Astonishment,” unveiled before a bunch of journalists, clients, and friends in the form of a herd of white horses in the Camargue‚ a vast wetland in southern France. The theme for 2019 was “Hermès Dreams,” for which the house brought 150 people to the Arctic Circle in Norway. For 2016’s “Nature at Full Gallop,” mystery buses drove passengers to a strawberry field in Ermenonville, France, where everyone was issued mosquito repellent and encouraged to get in touch with their inner berry.

“It’s not very conventional,” says Nichanian. “It’s a house where creation is very free. There is no obligation.” In 2022, the theme was “Lightness.” “It didn’t mean doing light things, it was more about a state of mind,” says de Beaufort. “Nobody’s telling you this year is going to be brown or square or whatever.”

But back to Aspen. Back to the ranch, literally—and Kevin Costner’s, specifically. Everyone boarded sprinter vans at 10:45 a.m. and disembarked at the actor’s Dunbar Ranch, a 160-acre spread just outside Aspen that had been rechristened Hermès Winter Camp for the next 10 hours. At base camp, seven glamping tents circled a series of fire pits. Group members were divided into seven teams, based on the color of the Hermès Winter Camp patch on their hat, to embark on a scavenger hunt comprising seven stations around the property.

Photography by Vincent Tullo.

Seven was the magic number: emblematic of the seven seas, seven deadly sins, seven days of the week, and seven hills of Rome. The teams had to complete seven tasks, to learn seven lessons, to find one seven-letter word. With each station came a riddle (“When I find myself at my highest peak, it’s through craftsmanship that I speak.” Would that be custom Hermès skis?) and a challenge loosely revolving around one of the Hermès men’s metiers—Goineau’s silks, Nichanian’s ready-to-wear, or de Beaufort’s Atelier Horizons, which can deck out your Bugatti in Hermès interiors or fashion a custom Hermès jukebox for your chalet.

Nichanian’s team, the first to figure out the seven-letter word—creatif, French for “creative”—were declared the winners. Their prize? “They all got Birkins,” deadpanned another team leader. “Just kidding!” The experience was the prize.

The scavenger hunt was broken up by an alfresco lunch of fondue and duck confit. Dinner was a barbecue cooked by the legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallmann and his team, who were flown in to make the best empanadas, steak, and salt-baked salmon of your life. After dinner, the celebrated musician Helado Negro performed and a gentle snow began to fall from the Colorado skies. The scene was so picturesque, one had to wonder if Hermès had somehow arranged the snowfall. “I was wondering that myself,” said Robert Chavez, executive chairman of Hermès Americas, “but I don’t think so.”

So what does Hermès get out of an event like this? Of course, there are media impressions, social and otherwise, when attendees like Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim, chef Alison Roman, and cultural commentator Evan Ross Katz post from the trip. “Have you been abducted by luxury?” one of Katz’s followers wrote. There is the potential to coax top clients further into Hermès’s calf-leather and cashmere embrace.

By the end of the trip, the client who questioned the rationale behind Hermès Winter Camp had thoroughly imbibed the orange Kool-Aid. What is Hermès looking to gain by staging these annual luxury abductions? Vibes. As Chavez said before the games began, “There’s no hard work. It’s all about fun and camaraderie.”