Sensuality is now the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.
Hermès has for so long stood as a pillar of daytime elegance, from its famous scarves as an icon of gentility to its graceful shoes and coveted bags.
But what was happening in this pink-tinted garden at twilight, where women passed like dark shadows? Coal-black leather skimmed over the body while deep-orange suede boots crunched on red coals that reflected the sunset lighting on the trees of the Parisian lycée where the show was held.
An important change was made with this Autumn/Winter 2018 collection by designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. She took Hermès out of its BCBG (bon chic, bon genre) French vision of what nice women should be wearing and made this, her fourth year at the noble house, tougher, cooler and more seductive.
Sensuality has become the new discreet charm of the bourgeoisie – and its Hermès look was based on a straightforward sports jacket known in France as the ‘Canadienne’.
“It is just an outdoor garment, but it really was my architecture,” said Nadège, explaining how the sharply-cut protective garment, with four pockets and a cinching belt, was at the heart of the show.
There is, of course, something sexual about the idea of leather against skin, scalping the shape of the body. But the designer brought the same spirit to knits, where a woolly dress also contoured torso. Even when yellow, wine red, crab pink, and navy blue took over as prime colors, the shaping of the body with leather remained key.
The fading away of ‘correct’ clothing – something that appeared in every aspirational society across the world throughout the 20th century – is a major change in social behaviour. And it is smart of Nadège to both understand the tilt in social mores and give potential customers this alternative look: seductive, but never vulgar; sharply cut, but allowing freedom of movement; and leather, a signature of Hermès since the first horse saddles, used in an intriguing way. That ‘Canadienne’ jacket will surely be a high-class bestseller.
Although the brand has a softly, softly attitude towards change and never blasts it out, its shoes – a cornerstone of the company – are also undergoing a radical change. The sportswear ethic, based on those see-them-everywhere sneakers has also sneaked into the Hermès collection.
It is not that the footwear is heavy – Hermès workmanship is masterly – but there is a solidity and a toughness that once again moves this horsey company to different green fields.