Jean Paul Gaultier wasn't the first designer this week to catch the fencing bug: Viktor & Rolf put their models in pearl and rattan mesh masks. But Gaultier took it further at Hermès, sending a few of his polished gals out with honest-to-goodness three-foot foils. Sure, they were a little gimmickyas were the riding crops which appeared laterbut they sharpened the show's sporty themes, reinforced throughout by pants tucked into glossy leather boots. And you couldn't begrudge Gaultier his props, because everything from an on-trend long black leather cape (which appeared twice) to a timeless checkered pantsuit was beautifully made and effortlessly chic.
If Gaultier's signature collection was showy, Hermès was quieter. Fine-gauge knits, woolen pencil skirts, streamlined trenches, and cropped shearlings and furs came without the ornamentation they were treated to elsewhere this season. In contrast, an interlude of silk Jacquard in silvery-gray or bordeaux that featured matched fencers was busier: while it displayed Gaultier's ready humor, it didn't have the same anonymous sophistication as the rest of the proceedings. Mostly, the designer stuck to a black, brown, and ivory palette, the better to showcase the multitude of mega-luxe bags. Using the brand logo on his clothes has been a temptation for Gaultier in seasons past, but today he resisted, and in the process put himself in a position to make new fans among women for whom elegance trumps labels.