Hermès' whispering nonchalance
If you want to know how the other half lives, a good first step would be to attend a menswear runway show by the venerable house of Hermès. Like the classy, clever and hyper self-confident collection staged on a balmy Saturday evening deep into the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
The setting was the courtyard the massive Mobilier National. A peculiarly unique French institution, the storage of fine furniture for cabinet ministers and high plenipotentiaries, dating back to Le Brun and Louis XIV.
Designed in the 1930s in haute-Rationalist style, dating from the Popular Front government of the time, it was the perfect backdrop for this jaunty spring 2020 collection. A somewhat ironic setting, nonetheless, given the left wing politics of the era, and the fact that Hermès' loyal audience comes from the famous one percent.
Aesthetically, however, this collection was right in sync with the building’s simple but pure line, hardy longevity and sense of French distinction.
In short, Hermès' menswear designer Véronique Nichanian was in top form; playing unexpectedly with noble materials like the perfectly judged trench coat made surprisingly in seersucker. The same material seen in a hyper flattering, deconstructed blazer. Though the big story was really the use of volume – oversized, flat front trousers and the forgiving parkas.
“Summery nonchalance,” read the program note, summing up Nichanian’s design DNA, and her color palette – bubblegum pink, deep foam, shiny lagoon, and fresh hemp.
Turns out the one percent are a very relaxed gang, who wear their success with quiet understatement, even if, like this collection, the clothes screamed top quality.
Ending with the season’s most refined finale: a half dozen beautifully printed silk looks – done with equestrian meets aquatic motifs - cut into mini baseball jackets, cocktail-hour tops or, most memorably, a flawlessly cut evening jacket.
“I loved the show. The clothes were just so fine,” enthused Serge Ibaka, the giant power forward of the Toronto Raptors.
On his third menswear show in Paris – after Balmain and Thom Browne – the rangy Raptor, who is 6'10" tall – is very much the media star of the French season.
Though, the biggest news at this show, was that elegance should sometimes just whisper.
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