Véronique Nichanian has always created pieces with print at Hermès. It is, after all, a print house, as she acknowledged at tonight's presentation. But she never showed those clothes. And now she agrees that men might have come around to color and print much sooner if they had ever been offered them. So what we had here was a making-up-for-lost-time situation, and Nichanian was making the most of it.
Hermès prints are legendary: almost psychedelic in their vivid color, eye-popping in their detail. Which made the route taken by Nichanian quite radical in that corporate context. The dominant graphic was a fractured print she called Fragments. She played its abstract blockiness against a blurry ikat called Flores or a digitally influenced number named Glitch, and a detailed print of flora and fauna dubbed Les Jardins d'Arménie. Recombinations of the four were used in the same outfit—shirt, trousers, bandanna. It wasn't as in-your-face as it sounds. The prints were all within the same tonal range, so no eyeballs were harmed by combining them. Still, this was Hermès, heartland of wealth that has no inclination whatsoever to announce its presence, so there was definitely a frisson of otherness. A more traditionally luxurious terra firma was regained with a crocodile sweatshirt in a shade of deep green Nichanian decided was "eucalyptus." But she matched it with a pair of poplin jogging pants in the Glitch print, overdyed with said eucalyptus. This was an old Hermès and a new Hermès meeting in an interzone of casual luxury.
In the end, that may be the primary achievement of Nichanian's decades-long tenure at the house. She has quietly defined a category that other designers in the luxury arena are now scrabbling for. Suits with sandals was one of the season's big statements—Nichanian has already been there, done that, moved on. Her crocodile creations are obvious apexes in the pyramid of desirability, but a cardigan in knitted nubuck is scarcely less riveting. And a windbreaker cut from the canvas used for yacht spinnakers is arcane—and humble—enough to satisfy those for whom hide is hideous.