Le Switch - Lemaire to replace Gaultier at Hermes

27 May 2010

Hermes AW10 collection designed by Jean Paul Gaultier

Venerable French fashion house Hermes has announced a change to their line-up; Jean Paul Gaultier is leaving and Christophe Lemaire, who is head of design at Lacoste, will take over.
Hermes is one of those well established brands, known and trusted by generations of French women (and around the world) for its expensive but durable classic pieces, namely its ‘Birkin’ bags; - named after 60’s chanteuse Jane Birkin, and illustrated square silk scarves. Rooted in the tradition of luxury luggage and originally founded by Thierry Hermès in 1837 as purveyor of equestrian equipment, the fashion house also shows its ready to wear at Paris Fashion Week. It’s kept its image relevant with a habit of choosing designers wisely. Before Gaultier took over in 2003, conceptualist god Martin Margiela was in place. Shoe genius Pierre Hardy is also a valued member of their team.

Jean Paul Gaultier, former owner of the title ‘enfant terrible’ has been a great a success for Hermes, despite misgivings about the naughty streak evident in his collections for his eponymous label. One of his visual signatures is retro lingerie, of course, and possibly his most famous collaboration was with Madonna, who made his cone bra iconic on her Blonde Ambition tour. Gaultier, who has always given the impression of not taking himself too seriously, should not be underestimated as a designer, as exemplified by his haute couture line and his work as a costume designer; - he’s responsible for the look of jaw dropping sci-fi classic,The Fifth Element. He managed to balance out the demands for restraint by the heritage brand with his own creative impulses and the collections have been very well received. From now on Gaultier will focus on his own ready to wear and haute couture fashion house, in which Hermès will retain a 45 percent stake. Hermès bought an initial 35 percent shareholding in Gaultier in 1999.

The collections was inspired by cult TV series The Avengers

“Hermès is deeply grateful to Jean-Paul Gaultier for his outstanding creative contribution during these seven years,” the company stated when the news broke. [WWD]

Christophe Lemaire is more of an unknown quantity. The designer has his own namesake line, has worked for experience with Christian Lacroix, Jean Patou, Yves Saint Laurent and Thierry Mugler over the years and joined Lacoste in 2000, where he has pushed his fashion agenda beyond the iconic polo shirt. Industry insiders are now gossiping about the possibilities at Hermes. On paper, the company is comparable to Louis Vuitton, but its sales are nothing like that of the luxury behemoth headed by Marc Jacobs. (See their golden palatial new London retail maison, if you don’t believe us) Will Lemaire be able to push the brand to the point where the collections and the profits margins make it onto the front pages too?

- Naomi Attwood


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