Just a step from the entrance to one of Warsaw’s most refined and elegant hotels, Hotel Europejski, which is located in the historic Old Town district of the city (known as Krakowskie Przemieście), a very special opening took place a couple of days ago. It’s the first ever Hermès store in Poland. The light-filled, dripped in tones of honey, burgundy and beige interior was designed by the Paris-based RDAI interior design studio and is furnished in a signature, equestrian style, which is distinct to Hermès house codes. The marble floor is a black & white checkerboard, the furniture is all about French design classics, while the metallic screen displays silk and cashmere carré scarves and shawls (the bold Animapolis edition by Jan Bajtlik is its star!). Behind, you will see the iconic bags, and one of them will strike you the most: the Birkin designed especially for the Warsaw store, with a trompe l’oeil store façade intarsia. Take a few steps back, and to the right you will find a selection of Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s chic and terrifically luxurious womenswear and menswear; to the left, the store is supplied with homeware (think porcelain and blankets), fine jewellery and perfumes which are sold exclusively in Hermès flagship boutiques. In the past, I would never believe a brand like Hermès will open its doors (here, I emphasize a separate store, not just a ‘box’ in some department store…) in Poland. So believe me, visiting the brick-and-mortar space for the first time was an experience filled with excitement and… a kind of pride.
Krakowskie Przedmieście 13 / Warsaw
Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
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.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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!