Hermès: Quality, quality and quality
A purist fashion statement and a celebration of the French love of spectacle at Hermès on Saturday, in the most skillfully staged show so far on the international runway calendar.
The house unveiled its Spring-Summer 2021 collection inside the Tennis Club de Paris, brilliantly revamped into a mountain with ridges that rolled up into the ceiling of the giant brutalist concrete structure. The structure was made of white plaster cast, courtesy of show producer Etienne Russo, and interspersed with giant plinths featuring the photography and imagery of artist Claudia Wieser – ceramic icons, moody gods, and photos of the actual collection.
The clothes themselves were altogether telling examples of uber luxurious fashion. Even though the cast marched 15 meters away from the audience, one could almost smell the rich quality of the supple lambskin and powdery cashmere.
For if any luxury house is riding out the Covid downturn, it is Hermès, which in the past month alone has opened stores in Madrid, Osaka and Dalian, China, and invested in a new plant in Auvergne with jobs for 250 people.
"There is a sense that this season in Paris is a lot about defending a certain French idea of a living spectacle. Of course, the pandemic means we have and will do many more things in digital. But at a certain point, a live expression of ideas is vital. Enough with Bluetooth, mobile phones and algorithms," sniffed Hermès women’s creative director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski.
Pre show, Nadège sent editors a chic scrapbook, in 100% sweet-smelling recycled Freelife Cento paper, containing her visual collabs with artists she admires. From Vivier and the great Mitteleuropean abstractionist Carsten Fock to photographer Sam Rock and even master DJ Frédéric Sanchez, who sent over several dreamlike seascapes. As well as providing an anthemic backing track, sandwiching the soundtrack to Godard’s classic film Contempt with Mazzy Star’s "Fade into You."
Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s response to the pandemic was hyper quality, expressed in super clean lines, reduced adornment and unfussy styling: ideal mannish blazers, minimalist fisherman gilets or low-waist skirts in leathers so smooth they looked to be made of steel. Refined dusters, knotted-at-the-side dresses or neat blousons in double-face cashmere that called to be caressed. Mixed up with some smart leather chainmail dresses for editorial shoots. Where other designers have come out of the pandemic obsessed with protective clothing, masks and visors, Vanhee-Cybulski sought out the certainty of the familiar. The longing for long-lasting durable fashion whose quality will last for years.
Like every show in Paris, Hermès scrupulously enforced social distancing. It is now a given, and has been since the end of the vacation, that every citizen, or visitor to France, wears a mask when they go outside or to any public event.
At every single show this week in Paris, gel is freely available and guests are sat more than one meter apart. If you want to get as far away as possible from a Republican Party rally, then find an invitation to a show in Paris Fashion Week.
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