The designer brought poetry and graphic pattern to tailoring
The First Lady of France, wedded to her blue jeans? Looking at the wardrobe of Brigitte Macron must be giving the bourgeoisie the vapours. Is this the end of French fashion as they know it?
But Hermès is galloping to the rescue. The graceful, tidy outfits sent out by designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski will have the smart-casual set sighing with relief.
For Hermès Spring/Summer 2018, Creative Director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski played with graphs and grids as well as the more familiar equine motifs of the house.
Here were enough tailored coats, jackets and trousers to fill the closet of those who spend the week at their desks and the weekend in the country.
Constrained by narrow walkways, the models stepped out predominately in checks. As a foretaste of the graph-paper patterns, the entry rooms were lined with paper grids, as found in design offices before digital drove us to the screen.
The entrance to the Hermès show was lined with blown-up ruled paper, familiar to generations of French children who learn to write cursive script on it, as well as to legions of design offices around the world (@SUZYMENKESVOGUE).
“The main message is definitely a stride of freshness and at the same time not being afraid of the legend, but floating with it,” the designer said backstage. “It’s about floating with prints, or plaid, or leather, which for me are codes of classicism. But I was interested to bring them a new definition.”
With other luxury brands eager to put some hip-hop and rap music into the classic mix, Hermès is moving in a new direction – but in its own way. Nadège’s idea was to focus on a concept and then to describe it poetically in a booklet that, by today’s usual terse programme notes, spoke volumes.
“Thread,” read one page in a text written by British rock-guru Jarvis Cocker. “A narrative thread. Follow it to a place that feels like sunshine. You can bathe in it.” The recipient of this poetry was a wrap dress, falling to low mid-calf, with blocks of beige, white, and black. Another poetic piece introduced an Hermès blue as “darker than midnight – vanish in its inky depths, bruised dreams brought back to the surface”.
In a collection that opened with beige, black, grey and white, the arrival of that dark blue made a strong statement, without spoiling the concept that the Hermès Spring/Summer 2018 collection was part of a continuous, gentle flow. Only towards the end did the house’s more obvious horsey symbols appear as part of a “Grand Manège” snaffle print, which was created by using three of the company’s iconic scarves.
The recent exhibition in Antwerp of the work of Martin Margiela, The Hermès Years – now set to open in Paris – was a reminder that few designers have dared to tackle the scarf-print issue in a major way. Nadège has stepped right into colour and print, yet one of her seminal pieces was a clotted-cream-coloured calfskin cape, edged in white, inspired by a horse’s waterproof rug. For very special horses indeed.
The designer has to be admired for taking a path that she believes in and looking looking afresh, and with depth, at Hermès and what it stands for. Perhaps what is missing so far is a wild streak, a horse galloping madly out of control, to be translated into a few clothes that are not “just-so”.