paris fashion week|hermes rtw fall 2011

This is a new chapter at Hermès. The company has never been about pomp and circumstance, and in his debut collection held at the new Left Bank boutique, Christophe Lemaire captured the luxe house spirit perfectly. He struck a serene vibe from the beginning. For starters, he eschewed the usual runway soundtrack for a live performance by Beijing composer Wu Fei playing the Chinese guzheng zither. Lemaire’s models walked at a meditative pace — from balcony to stairs and ultimately winding their way around the store’s hutlike installations. The clothes, meanwhile, were perfectly serene to match — utterly simple and spare. But unlike, say, Celine’s Phoebe Philo or numerous others who have worked that streamlined theme to rigorous precision, Lemaire served it up with ample sportif ease. Coats were cut clean, but also wonderfully roomy and loose at the sleeves, and there was breathing room in those blouses, dresses and pants. Any thematic references were beyond subtle, even if show notes pointed to four separate story lines. After the all-white openers in almost monastic silhouettes, Lemaire went slightly Native American: hooded, suede ponchos and dresses featuring dream-catcher prints in a palette of rich sepias, ochres, ecrus and taupes. Then came what Lemaire dubbed “the urchins.” That’s a misnomer for what was actually a strong series of tailored looks seen in generously cut blazers and jackets, some finished with leather lapels. The finale was anchored by billiard-inspired colors: a deep-red caftan; a green tunic dress. Throughout, Lemaire introduced some incredible fabrics (ponyskin, python and nubuck lambskin) as well as the occasional wink at the label’s equestrian and aristocratic roots — jockeylike caps, a leather bow-and-arrow set and, yes, a live falcon paired with a ruggedly luxe fur coat. In a Paris season rife with industry drama, including the house’s own battle with Bernard Arnault, Lemaire managed to bring the focus back to luxury living and beautiful, quality clothes.

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paris fashion week|hermes rtw fall 2011