January 19, 2014 Paris
It's a quality that made him a smart choice for Hermès, which makes its super-luxury pitch to the perennial traveler. But it's also a quality that can make his namesake line, where he indulges it fully, a bit obscure to shoppers weaned on jeans and T-shirts. (After several years in business, Lemaire finally introduced his own jeans a season or two ago.) For Fall, by his own admission, he moved his collection in a more urban direction. He introduced leather jackets and shetland sweaters to complement his usual yak-wool knits. He didn't compromise on any of his fixations (large, carrot-shaped trousers; loose, draping coats), but by offering more of a foothold to casual observers, he situated his collection in a wider context.
While there were still padded coats inspired by Chinese uniforms, collarless workshirts, and multipleat pants, there was also a great gabardine trenchcoat with a removable wool/cashmere collar; a smart, elongated peacoat; and plenty of denim. If it was urbane, that's because it was inspired by an urban mecca: Lemaire's native Paris. But, he said, "It's another Paris. It's not the bourgeois Paris everyone has in mind." What made his Fall collection rise to new heights was the way the designer found a way to work his favored multicultural references into a more focused perspective on city dressing. Which only fits, given that his other Paris is as international as his imagination. To realize that, you had only to hear him enthusing about the inspiration he took from old Algerian men in Barbès for a leather vest worn over a longer tailored jacket.