PARIS–Did I just see a leather jumpsuit? And was that another, in shearling?
As Hermès fends of hostile bids from luxury (and French) rival LVMH, it seems as if menswear designer Véronique Nichanian has taken the incursion as a personal challenge: not to revolutionize the storied brand, far from it, but to take the apparel (the company has only been making clothing since the 1920s, that’s “only” in comparison to the leather goods Thierry Hermès began fabricating in 1873) to the limit of what it can mean to be Hermès.
Hence: leather jumpsuits, perhaps the cleverest stab into a history built on not only leather, but essentially functional harnesses for horses. But Nichanian was delivering a message, sending an olive leather jumpsuit, followed immediately by more leather, this time pants, covered in a traditional overcoat. And then repeating the process, but in black. We should not be confused: this is still the brand of arch-conservatism, business and luxury. There were gorgeous double-breasted jackets, one in luscious black cashmere, as well as olive and navy overcoats that will play nicely to the older crowd. Her checked two-button suits are examples of restraint. But these were balanced with electrifying, turquoise turtlenecks (and a less electrifying, baby-poo yellow ones), swarthy leather pants, and nary a tie in sight. Not one (Hermès without a tie is like MSNBC without Olberman; the absence says a great deal).
Two other elements stood out for me: the scarves, which toyed with prints and plaids in an seductively playful manner, and Nichanian’s models, who were the most diverse I’ve encountered.
The crowd’s rock-concert applause spoke volumes about the collection, and I joined them. This is a collection to be celebrated. A new refinement, not to be confused with a confinement, within the old Hermès.