PFW AW19: Hermès

FOR a heritage leather house with as long a history as Hermès, staying relevant in face of a deluge of new designers and brands and the rise of streetwear presents a real challenge. Nonetheless, each season, the brand’s creative director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski proves that she is up to the task.  The French fashion designer, whose resume counts previous stints at  Céline, Maison Margiela and The Row, has once again shown a collection that will appeal to shoppers both young or old, new or regular.

Eschewing the softer, sinuous lines of spring summer, she opted for a stronger, more powerful conception of elegant femininity. This was illustrated immediately in the authoritative ensembles that opened the collection, often executed in a minimal colour palette of black, white and neutrals.

The inclusion of leather shorts and jackets in many looks, often paired with sheer black tights and a belt bag with the signature Hermès H closure, exuded youthful sexiness, signalling a marked departure from her often more mature looks. In any case, she still had many other offerings for her older clientele to choose from, ranging from breezy silk shirt dresses to studious yet alluring pencil skirts.

Although Hermès-ian motifs such as scarf-print tops, the Hermès orange, and equestrian-inspired knee high boots made their regular appearance, the focus of the 55-look strong collection was leather. As expected of the French fashion house, which traces its history back to roots in saddlery, leather was rendered in various forms: full on in the shape of edgy yet elegant outerwear, or more indirectly as sleek accoutrements or detailing. Buttery soft to the touch yet hardy and tough at first sight, leather was fashioned to emanate a quiet authority; the woman who dons Hermes leather stands impervious against all odds.

Hermès is well-recognized for exquisite craftsmanship which it owes to its great heritage. What elevates such history and artistry and prevents it from descending into obsolescence is an eye for the now, for the tastes and whims of contemporary audiences, something that Vanhee-Cybulski undeniably possesses (see, for example, the athleisure-inspired cuts that dominated most of the outerwear). And yet, she is able to balance the trendy and ephemeral with the timeless and enduring — all of the pieces in this AW collection would just be as wearable in ten, 20 years as they are today. It’s no wonder that Hermès remains a success.

by Kay Ean Leong 

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