After weeks of grey skies and even a day where over a million workers across France went on strike, the capital jolted awake for Paris Fashion Week.
Saturday, 21st January was decidedly sunny, bathing the geometric archways in Maison de L’Unesco with a golden hue — an illuminating setting for Hermès’ Autumn/Winter 2023 menswear collection.
From the get go, creative director Véronique Nichanian’s vision of elegant insouciance, which has shaped Hermès’ menswear direction for close to 35 years, was palpable. The first look right off the runway was a belted charcoal-coloured calfskin coat — with all the leathery suppleness that the label is known for.
It brings to mind her overarching mission to soften menswear. “I remember a jacket from my father that was extremely stiff,” she says in an interview with Belgian financial newspaper L’Echo (in French) “It was pretty, but it felt like wearing a breastplate. Now, we make soft jackets that can be rolled in suitcases.”
That soft jacket was fastened near the collarbone with a single fireman’s buckle that simultaneously recalls the house’s equestrian heritage or maybe that we’re just a little bit on fire. This small element stands as testament to Nichanian’s knack for small details to become a big defining feature, for it features in other outwear pieces like a blouson albeit in a soft camel hue.
Indeed, colours for this year’s autumn/winter collection are noticeably more muted, with a sizeable proportion of its looks dedicated to hues of camel, walnut, taupe, ash and fog. Gone as well are the bucket hats and the streak of activewear that ran through the last Autumn/Winter collection.
Now and then, a flash of the label’s silk scarf in a creamy tone tied as a cravat enters the fray, as does a selection of relaxed cashmere knitwear that functioned as a nice break from the masculine tailoring that characterised much of its suit jackets and long flowing trousers worn with turtleneck pullovers piled high.
That’s not to say that the collection is all about softness. The models strutted down in remarkably authoritative calfskin ankle monk strap boots with soles and heel caps thick enough to crush one’s enemies. On top, an all black ensemble including a domineering duffle-coat blouson in lamb shearling patched with black leather that would project power and strength for any wearer.
Of course, Hermès would not be Hermès without its investment-worthy bags and the Haut à Courroies bag makes another appearance. This time, it sports a smaller pocket in front, mimicking its signature sangles, pontet and plaque that makes the bag so immediately recognisable — and swoonworthy.
Thus lies the appeal of the Hermès universe. In a time when many fashion houses have opted for some level of shock value, the storied French label keeps to its studied timelessness by cleverly tweaking one small detail or the other — enough for its loyal acolytes to keep building a wardrobe of these beautiful staples without frightening the horses.
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