07 March 2011

PFW A/W '11 Report - Hermes

Hermes have a new designer and a brand new store.  The designer is Christophe Lemaire, formerly at the brand Lacoste. The store is next to the Hotel Lutetia: it’s a huge space in what used to be the art deco swimming pool of the old hotel. It was also the venue of this season’s show.

None of the architectural features could be altered so Rena Dumas, the wife of the recently deceased head of this family owned business, Jean Louis Dumas, built staggering cage constructions of layered of bent wood to separate the different departments. Was it ironic that, for the show, the fashion editors got to sit in the cages, or were we just being super-sensitive?

Hermes is the second biggest topic of conversation in Paris this week (don’t tell me you need to know that Galliano is still the first). The business has fallen prey recently to the acquisitive instincts of Bernard Arnault who, by stealth, acquired a 20% share. The family are fending off any further advances by the luxury goods group and some colourful language has been used in the press as each side defends their patch.

I hope the Dumas family hold their ground. One of the things that makes Hermes so special is the sense that it produces genuinely rare products that are truly luxurious, collectable and covetable in a business where so many of this season’s must haves are languishing at the back of the cupboard, unloved, within weeks.

Christophe Lemaire’s first outing for the house was an exercise in restraint. The basic shape was a simple kimono or tunic. The silhouette was loose and forgiving with a lot of the impact in the quality of the layered silks, glossy ponyskins, buttery leathers and suedes.

Many of the big catwalk stars seem to be in business to cater to the lithe and lovely under-thirties. Hermes seemed to be pitching this collection, quite deliberately at an older demographic. Since this is a section of global society that  is wealthy, influential and often ignored, that seems like a pretty canny move.

Tunics and tunic dresses that were layered over slim pants tucked into boots came out in a series of winter whites before segueing into caramels and primary brights. Shapes were fluid and easy. Coats followed a kimono line or a simple masculine tailored shape with skinny lapels. It wasn’t so much fashion as classic Hermes style.

The only allusion to the boardroom battle that rages behind the scenes was a snowy hawk perched on one of the model’s wrists. It fixed the fashion crowd with an eagle eyed stare and seemed completely nonplussed by all the fuss.

- Paula Reed in Paris


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