The Lemaire spring-summer 2023 presentation was a beautiful, harmonious scene. “It’s always nice to see people when they are in between things,”Christopher Lemaire said. “And people are very much themselves,”Sarah-Linh Tran added. Outside this presentation at the Musée des Arts et Métiers were clustered lots of fashion folk with no time to spare, waiting to go upstairs to see models in Lemaire acting as if they had time to kill. On the staircase a brace of male models idly swayed on their heels in top to toe monocolor stone, one wearing a crisp trench over full white pants in cotton and a split-upper slipper, the other a wide blouson over a collar-popped shirt and a multi-pleated silky pant with the same shoes. A female model in a culotte-integrating version of the outfits we’d just seen stood on the landing above. Up into the hall, there was a guy leaning on a window frame in brown blouson and work trousers with a bag strapped around his shoulder and a mini torch on his key fob. Across from him a woman in an interestingly halter-wrapped shirt and brown five pocket pants read a battered Luis Bunuel paperback. Further along another woman wore a dress and a guy wore a camp collar shirt that were both in the same hibiscus print. A female slept on a bench, warmed by the shafts of sunlight through the window, and cushioned by her softly blushing shirting and crisp cotton pants. A guy leant against a table in more pared down brown workwear reading Le Monde. At the end of the room, Ana Roxanne played mood music on multiple instruments and we saw more model groupings wearing super attractive printed pieces by the Indonesian artist Noviadi Angkasapura. This was a refreshingly straightforward collection that put the clothes on a pedestal of reality.
I have such a sweet spot for Lemaire. I’ve said it plenty of times, and I will say it again: this is the brand that utterly satisfies me in the context of my personal, day-to-day style. Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran just never disappoint me. For autumn-winter 2022, the designers-slash-life-partners turned to the idea of “traveling somewhere” – something we all fantasize about in our harsh, pandemic reality. The destination was purely imaginary, an Impressionistic landscape painted on a 30-meter backdrop by the playwright, scenographer, and theater director Philippe Quesne. It proved a strong foil for what Lemaire described backstage as a nomadic tribe, and the show notes called “an urban horde of modern-day hunter-gatherers.” “Dressing up is a little bit like traveling,” Christopher mused. “You get dressed up, you go to someone, or you have a destination in mind.” Hence a collection composed of thoughtfully layered pieces that neatly spliced ease, movement, and a sophisticated take on functionality. Softly tailored outerwear in the form of a tobacco trench, a coat that can be worn like a blouson or a gilet, a black overcoat with a white lapel and lining, and an elevated take on the denim jacket looked like they could walk straight off the runway and into the streets of Paris to take on a life of their own. A blouse with a red marbled print – the result of a collaboration with theartisan Frédérique Pelletier – brought a bit of psychedelia to a lineup focused on elevated effortlessness. Discreet luxury is, after all, Lemaire’s home turf. Presenting men’s, women’s, and unisex looks on a diverse cast further underscored the designers’ interest in fashions as worn out in the real world, as opposed to on glossy paper, Lemaire allowed. “We can only do half of the job,” he observed. “The rest is the way people move, how they embody that style, and personality.”
If you read me, then you know I’m a sucker for Lemaire! What Christopher Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran create every six months is just so well-balanced, and it perfectly fits my personal style. For spring-summer 2022, the label has no shock value intentions, instead, it delivers functional, timeless and beautifully tailored garments that are the perfect building blocks of a summer wardrobe. The designers offer a post-pandemic line-up of essentials – from classic, crisp white shirts and chic jackets made in Japanese denim to flared skirts in light-weight duvet and billow-y day-dresses in the most charming earth tones. You just hope those clothes will go out to the office, and not end up behind the computer monitor. The Lemaire woman and man never try too hard. The clothes are neat, but never uptight. The silhouettes are over-sized, but not slouchy. The colour palette is all about sun-burnt neutals, except for some items that come in idyllic watercolour prints. And as for the accessories, you just can’t miss the over-sized necklaces and vests made from wooden beads (like the once you see on the seats of your grandpa’s car), just as the signature “Croissant” bags in new colour-ways. Some things are great the way they are, and I always find Lemaire’s calm approach to fashion as a sort of relaxing comfort zone.
I love Lemaire and I will acknowledge this a hundred times. I just don’t know how Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran do it every single time. This level of goodness should be illegal. The co-ed autumn-winter 2021 collection is a dream, from the clothes (drooling over each garment, really) to the model casting. Partially as a result of confinement, the designers framed the development of this collection according to shifted criteria of demand: feel was as important as look, and adaptability inside and outside our front door paramount. The result was a hierarchy of layerable garments that began with a base of pajama-like pieces in cotton, silk and fine knits, in typically evocative earthy tones. These were arranged under mid-layers of Mod inspired tailoring and workwear sourced pieces, softly rendered but structured in appearance, plus Shetland knits and turtle-necks that were themselves contained within a protective carapace of excellent outerwear choices. These included a supremely livable-in reversible shearling, and greatcoats worthy of the name. Parkas and Afghans came trimmed in Mongolian wool (those pieces are delightful…); trenches and macs featured beautiful abstract marbled print; billowing robe-coats in down or alpaca were enveloping and arresting. Tran noted her favored heel height had been reduced in slouchy uppered boots as a result of her appetite for walking as much as possible when the opportunity presented itself, while men’s footwear included commando-soled slippers and the usual impeccable boot. Bags had a pouch cut like a mitten for double usage. Tran said: “during the confinement we were fantasizing about going out into the streets of Paris, and we were inspired by the idea of the flâneur from Baudelaire; going in the street with no special agenda in mind.” Taking pleasure in a purposeless saunter is a purpose in itself, and this was a collection beautifully built to enhance mindful loitering in every milieu. Added Lemaire: “Luxury is more about how you feel in the clothes than the image you project to others: this we have always been convinced of. And it’s more relevant than ever today… the changes in the rhythm of life and our habits have encouraged us to be even more attentive.”
I don’t know how Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran do it, but their collections always reasonate with me the most in terms of ready-to-wear. I can be obsessed with the most over-the-top dress and feel inspired by the most thoroughly planned visual production. But in terms of clothes, my heart belongs to Lemaire. Their spring-summer 2021 presentation, of course audience-less, is co-ed, as the designers depart from men’s and women’s division. Also, from now on, we will see their collections twice a year, during men’s fashion weeks. “We’ve been frustrated for a while by the timing of the schedule,” said Lemaire. “You know, showing the pre-collection for women together with the men’s and then waiting two months to show the second half of the women’s collection. For many different reasons it was complicated and frustrating for production and also buyers. So it’s obvious that this was an opportunity to show everything together, even though it was a big challenge for the team to develop the collection in time.” Well, it’s as effortlessly refined as usual – no marks of backstage rush visible. One of the ways they met that challenge, said Tran, was by working more closely than ever before. She added: “The men’s team and the women’s team worked hand-in-hand, choosing fabrics and colors in common… we focused on what was common between the man and the woman, and then we added more specifically women’s volumes and more specific men’s volumes.” The result was a highly coherent collection in which that commonality was evident but resulted in subtle gradations and hints of contrast, rather than the monotony of a monogamously unisex collection. As evinced in the lookbook shots where womenswear and menswear looks are shown in the same frame, a close affinity looks like complementary dressing rather than couple-coupling. There was a stirring marine green, a palest of yellow, a dash of denim. Many of the garments were in a kaleidoscope of neutrals – shades of clay, ochre, wheat – whose delicate differences became apparent and increasingly rich the more attention you paid to them. Men wore smocks and women boxy suiting either plain or in a beautiful Martin Ramirez landscape print. Tran concluded: “we build the collection as a wardrobe. The idea of being able to enrich the wardrobe is very pertinent to us.” Lemaire’s newly co-ed articulation shows that the designers do what they realy feel like is the most suitable for them – and this even more strenghtens mine – and other fans’ – love for the Parisian label.