Hermès Fall 2011 Show Review

Hermès Fall 2011 collection

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Hermès Fall 2011 collection

SHOW: Hermès (See the full runway collection)

ACCESSORIES: Caps, block-heeled ankle boots, simple envelope clutches—in leather, leather, leather

OVERALL TAKEAWAY: An assured opening romp through Hermès’s archives and ateliers—but Christopher Lemaire’s signature needs to be stronger.

Christopher Lemaire came to Hermès not from haute couture but from sportswear. That marked the first difference between Jean Paul Gaultier’s offerings for the house and Lemaire’s opening collection.

The venue signaled a change too—a shift from the thousand-seater where Gaultier pinged tennis balls into the audience and offered a four-strong dressage team to a small-scale show inside Hermès’s latest Parisian store. Lemaire was going for craft rather than cameras.

The opening outfits immediately set the tone: quiet, refined, reflective even. There’s a lot going on chez Hermès, with designer shake-ups and the Wolf in Cashmere (Bernard Arnault, as he’s being called these days) looming on the horizon. Maybe that’s where the bird of prey perched on a wrist came from, or the quiver of leather arrows. The latter, of course, could just be an excuse for Lemaire to show off the skills of the unparalleled Hermès artisans.

Barring a few of those flashes of wit, and some rather garish scarf prints, Lemaire stuck to the clean sportswear that marked his Lacoste offerings, albeit now reinterpreted in hyper-luxe materials and lashings of leather.

If there’s a criticism to be leveled, it’s perhaps that Lemaire was influenced a little too much by Hermès’s ’80s antecedents: the shoulder-padded trenchcoats trimmed in leather would be fine as a jokey aside on other catwalks, but the last thing 60-something Hermès clients who originally bought these clothes when they were 40-something Hermès clients want to be reminded of is the 25 years that have elapsed.

But there will always be an eternal, endless and ageless chic in Lemaire’s leather trenchcoats, smoking jackets, and minimal clutches. Indeed, you can imagine sporting those 20 years from now.