The Hermès show was staged in the Palais Brongniart. It was once the stock exchange, which made it an appropriate location for a presentation from a label whose name is a global byword for luxury. It also made the atmosphere all the more striking: There wasn't a moment of ostentation, just dark velvet curtains with a twenty-foot drop, a sense of shadowy mystery, and Echo & the Bunnymen on the soundtrack. Stealth wealth, indeed.
Christophe Lemaire wouldn't want it any other way. The woman he envisions for Hermès is remarkably consistent with the creature that populates his own collections: She's a little bit mysterious, a little bit exotic, and fiercely independent. After the show tonight, Lemaire mentioned the Russian steppes, the ancient East-West trading route known as the Silk Road, and Persian carpets as reference points. It was easy to see the carpets in his dense, rich prints, and a Mongolian horsewoman might recognize some of the designer's proportions. The coat in shaggy goat was as wild as the wind.
Lemaire said he'd been musing on all the characters a woman could be. But it wasn't really those ethnic personae who carried the show. His notions of a strong, graceful, urban style were more persuasive. He tipped his cap to trends—lush knitwear, oversize coats—but the slightly exaggerated proportions of his jackets and pants once again seemed more of a reference to Martin Margiela's tenure at Hermès, and were just as elegantly slouchy, especially in an ivory tux with an extravagant shawl collar, or a coat-dress, also in ivory, that was closed with a single button.
About that stealth wealth: Lemaire offered a tunic in paper-light chiffon crocodile, pinned at the back, casually falling open from a single closure at the back of the neck. Such ease, combined with the utter luxury of the material, defines Hermès. In fact, with Véronique Nichanian as creative director for the men's collection and Lemaire in charge of womenswear, the company now puts forth an idiosyncratic but completely convincing statement about luxury dressing in the twenty-first century.