TBT: Margiela’s Hermès Years

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It’s funny that Martin Margiela‘s tenure at Hermès suddenly appeared on everybody’s lips after this year’s exhibition at Antwerp’s MoMu It took nearly two decades for the fashion industry to wholeheartedly appreciate the Belgian visionary’s contribution at the maison, that’s probably most associated with very-rich-women kind of ‘luxury’. At his eponymous label, Maison Martin Margiela, the famously anonymous designer used to redefine such terms as ‘avant-garde’ and ‘minimalist’ in one single garment – meanwhile at Hermès, it was a different philosophy. Tranquil, understated and low-key – that’s how the guests of his shows at Rue Saint-Honoré flagship store (12 in overall, between 1998 and 2002) described the atmosphere. So were the clothes, kept mostly in black, beige or navy. Fashion tends to forget its references, and as you can clearly see in images below, it wasn’t Phoebe Philo at Céline, Christophe Lemaire (he designed for Hermès before the current creative director, Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski) or The Row who were first to decide on making a perfectly tailored camel coat the focus of their collections.

For Margiela, ready-to-wear with a Hermès tag had to be of the best quality materials, made with the biggest attention to details (no flashy embroideries meant here) and with the aim to be worn for the next 20 years. This is what actual ‘luxury’ in fashion meant to Martin, even though he would never use that stabby and deprived of its meaning word. For a brief moment, Hermès was more than fancy foulards and bags (note: for spring-summer 2000, Margiela casted Jane Birkin as the show’s model, making a nod to, guess what, the Birkin bag). It was about the clothes, too, and very well constructed clothes: warm cashmere sweaters, crisp white shirts, masculine blazers, eternally chic black gowns. And sneakers – remember, we’re speaking of 90s / beginning of 00s, when only stilettos mattered on Parisian catwalks. There’s no surprise his shows weren’t received that well. Many thought that Hermès was just ‘boring’ with Martin’s conservative approach: those were the 90s, after all, and fashion loved FASHION. The time has shown, however, that those who bought Margiela’s Hèrmes were the smart ones. Finding pieces from that era is quite a struggle, and when you find anything, the prices are killer. Martin Margiela is an acclaimed designer for more than one reason, but his underrated creative direction and aesthetic at Hermès is… timeless.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Who’s Cybulski? Hermes AW15

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That was a big moment for Hermes – the former designer assistant of The Row, Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski, showed her debutant collection for this historical French house. Strict suede silhouettes and sexy pencil skirts are out-standing while the way Nadege transformed silk scarves into leather bandanas is a highlight. Red and mustard were the key colours of this minimal and classical presentation – although the collection lacks the romanticism which was brought by Christophe Lemaire, the clean and sharp lines match the house codes too. It’s already a wonder what Cynulski’s going to do in the future for Hermes!

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Elusive / Mood

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System Magazine 1 / Nicolas Ghesquiere special feature

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Vogue Paris November 2014 / Anais Mali in Figures de Caracteres

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Comme des Garcons / 1994

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Versace lookbook 1996 / Bruce Weber

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Hermes by Martin Margiela / AW03

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Vetements / Novembre Magazine

Understated Luxury. Hermes SS15

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That was the last season of Christophe Lemaire at Hermes- and surely, it really was worth an applause. The understated luxury, traveler chic and the elegant style is everything that Lemaire achieved at Hermes and continues in his own, name-sake, brand. Cream and white layers in alligator printed suede, oversized Hermès prints blown up on belted in scarf dresses and loose silken separates in dusky pink and golden yellow all summed up the sense of freeing ease that Lemaire imbued on the house. These clothes don’t need bells and whistles and neither does the house when you have an arsenal of fine fabrications. But who is next at Hermes? It’s Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski, which comes to the house with experience from The Row and Celine. In other words, it’s surely going to be a match in heaven. However I will still miss Christophe Lemaire at this French, super strong house.

By the way… it’s the last “reviewed” collection from SS15 by me. This season was beautiful. Can’t wait what the designers will show in the next half of the year!

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