Hermès’ AW21 menswear collection is a masterclass in smart-casual
Not one for trends or fads, Hermès reflects the more relaxed mood of the times in its own impeccably chic way.
Courtesy of Hermès / Filippo Fior
Hermès started life as a luxury equestrian saddle-maker almost 200 years ago. That may make it sound like the most traditional of establishments, but it also indicates how adept it is at changing with the times. After all, the maison wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t. For AW21, the French house’s menswear designer Véronique Nichanian once again collaborated with Cyril Teste, an experimental director whose Paris-based Collective MXM specialises in the poetic expression of live dramatic performance via streamed video. Cyril’s seven-section split screen format allowed you to choose which angle you wished to see the smiley male models (what a nice change!) as they hung out on the staircase of the Mobilier National in Paris, the venue that Vèronique was staging her shows in before you-know-what put them all on hold. “Naturally, we are all keen on returning as quickly as possible to the irreplaceable warmth and fellowship of a fashion show with a live audience, but in the meantime, we need imagination to fortify our patience,” she wrote in an accompanying essay to the collection.
The clothes echoed that sentiment, drawing on the new, laid-back mood of the times with a slightly more relaxed — dare we say, casual — feel. But this is Hermès, which means that it’s not your average pair of lockdown track pants. These are track pants with hours of Made-in-France craftsmanship put into them, made by the most skilled hands from the finest materials. Shearling and Birkin-worthy leather track pants, in fact. Yes, really. There were also fluffy lambskin cardigans and wide-leg cotton trousers with drawstring waists, zip-up t-shirts and pullovers, cotton workwear jackets, as well as a medley of sneakers in bubblegum pink, canary yellow and aquamarine knit and calf leather with chubby rubber soles. “I wanted to defy categorisation, erase conventional limits, and build connections between families of clothing that tend to be separated,” Veronique explained. “At a time when lifestyles are changing, we have been seeing new customs flourish. Our approach to clothing, now of utmost importance, is currently undergoing a transformation, and my job is to come up with propositions.”
The result was a more youthful spirit to Véronique’s menswear, which is usually defined by its neutral colour palette and elegant classicism. Here were flashes of lime green, lilac, turquoise and mustard — or, as Hermès eloquently put it: absinthe, frost blue, petroleum and cumin. Everything was styled with ease, shirts left untucked, sweaters layered upon each other and lightweight jackets that could easily be worn indoors. When so many fashion brands feel the need to make large statements and go mad with logos and limousine-worthy flamboyance, what Hermès offers is a quieter kind of radical urgency. These are clothes that reflect the state of the world and the pragmatism required from our wardrobes — yet it’s also designed to be treasured forever and won’t feel dated once the world re-opens and life returns to normal. Hermès does not do fad diets or make New Year’s resolutions; it just enjoys life for its simple and delicious pleasures.
“I want to believe in a form of optimism and pleasure indistinguishable from the creative spirit,” Vèronique explained. “It offers new passageways between house and city, room and balcony, intimate and social. It erases landmarks, turns the formal into the casual and expresses an aspiration for lightness, and a welcome diversion.” Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel if the wheel itself is made to last. That’s exactly why Hermès has been around for so long — and will continue to be in centuries to come.