It’s fascinating that two of the most successful houses in contemporary men’s luxury are, possible, two of the most opposing: Givenchy and Hermes. There are similarities: neither are eager to change much, sticking to their established formulas and turning out collections that tick boxes, please the punters and rake in new devotees. But the latter has pitched itself as the epitome of luxury, appealing to a market so niche it’s barely a nick in the bedpost of modern menswear; whereas the former has the rag-bag quality of the mass. It’s like comparing a glass of Chateau d’Yquem 1789 to a glug from a bottle of the popular (and populist) British sparkling perry brand Lambrini. They’re different beasts, they appeal to different customers, but in the end they both just get you drunk.
Paris Menswear Autumn/Winter 2015: Studious design lessons from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Loewe, Thom Browne, Hermes
Perhaps it’s all the uniforms cropping up all over the place, or maybe it was Raf Simons’ opening gambit, glorifying his own university years on Wednesday evening, but there’s been a back-to-school feeling at the Paris menswear shows. Many editors share said feeling – bleary-eyed and pale under recently-acquired holiday tans, with shell-shocked expression as they launched into a fully-fledged fashion month barely a week into the new year. Amongst designers, generally, there’s a studious earnestness, to see ideas through, to cross t’s and dot i’s. But, alas, there hasn’t been much deep and meaningful.
Fashion isn’t a house of cards – where one ill-judged manoeuvre brings the whole thing tumbling down – but rather a game of Kerplunk!. Meaning, if you twiddle the wrong bit, it makes a lot of noise and you lose a few of your marbles, but the whole thing doesn’t crash to the ground.
That’s what occurred to me when news broke today of Christophe Lemaire’s mutual parting of ways with the French luxury juggernaut Hermès.
If you ascend Paris’ Eiffel tower – say, during a free moment during the spring/summer 2015 menswear shows – you can look out on a vista relatively unchanged from the first day the tower was opened in 1889, of Baron Haussmann’s neoclassical façades and wide avenues. French law ensures that: Second Empire plans are in many cases more or less followed, with “alignement” law still in place to regulates a building’s height according to the width of the streets it borders. It’s fabulous for a sight-seer who gets to step back in time, almost. But many argue it’s choking the development of the city as a whole. Personally, I see a parallel with much of Paris fashion, where tradition can often choke creativity.
Kenzo chose to show their autumn/winter 2014 collection in the former Crédit Lyonnais headquarters. Symbolic, maybe, because menswear right now symbolises money in the bank for many a multi-billion fashion conglomerate. China is the motivating factor, where menswear sales make up approximately 55% of a luxury goods market set to become the world’s biggest (as compared to 40% on average worldwide). Hence the fact that the winter menswear shows seem bigger, more extravagant and more confident than usual. There’s buoyancy amongst the boys.
Over-thought, overlooked and afterthoughts. A few more from the French spring/summer 2014 collections
Have you ever eaten an eighteen-course French meal and passed out from the exertion? No, me neither. Apparently when they autopsied Louis XIV his stomach was three times the size of an average man. Sometimes it feels a bit like that during Paris fashion week. You feel bloated, stuffed, saturated. It’s with fashion, rather than food. The latter is thin on the ground, bar the ubiquitous croques.
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