Chat with Christophe Lemaire about clothes and accessories for as little as ten minutes, and you'll understand why he was anointed Hermès' go-to guy. Lemaire has a total product wonk's eye for detail, and you quickly realize that his idea of luxury is design that merges functionality with style, and never traffics in ostentation. He'd rather find perfect proportions than a $1,000-a-yard silk.
With his own line, the mathematics are Less = More. "Every season is about building a convertible wardrobe," he explained in a private appointment. "I want to get to a minimum of pieces that's kind of radical in its simplicity." Take his midi-length skirt—which comes in both Ultrasuede and cotton poplin—that lets you be as exposed as you want to be, and when unsnapped nearly all the way looks terrific over slim pants. "Neat and relaxed" is his self-imposed directive. It can't be an easy thing, making slouchy staples like his silk-cotton harem pants or long, cap-sleeve sweatshirt dress with a sense of refinement, but Lemaire has indeed hammered out his solutions. (Here's a hint: cut, cut, cut.)
Though his sensibility is loose, sportif, and quite crisp, it's not so severe as to be clinical. Even within his well-edited selection, Lemaire included a print—a vintage, almost tropical floral to which he ascribed slightly sinister qualities. "There's something strange about it," he said. But heck, there's a strangeness to Lemaire's whole ethos and manner, although, particularly in a season with an overdose of the exquisite, it's a refreshing way to see someone work.