Hermés F/W 2016
Hermés F/W 2016

I feel vindicated this afternoon in a particular way. As a photographer who sometimes has to create styles on the fly, models are hereby put on notice that dressing you in a brown paper bag with arm holes cut in the side is now perfectly acceptable. Hermés says so. No more complaining.

Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has been creative director at Hermés a year now, but there is a tremendous difference between what we saw today and what came down this runway this time last year. Gone is much of the leather, the equestrian looks, and the jumpers. Last year, I mentioned there were too few dresses in the mix and this year all but a handful of looks were decidedly feminine, either dresses or two-piece ensembles with skirts, and many of those were pleated. This is a softer Hermés than we saw last year and one this is almost certainly more appealing to the brand’s core audience.

What’s not gone is Vanhee-Cybulski’s minimalistic preference for keeping things simple, with lines uncluttered and silhouettes that are more full. Textured satin is her textile of preference this season, frequently done in a burnt orange that seems to be particularly popular in Paris this season. She pieces together panels of material with textured lines running in different directions, creating a visual contrast without actually changing fabric. The effect is both soft and attractive.

One of the things I find especially interesting in this collection is her use of studs, which seems to go against any attempt to call Vanhee-Cybulski a true minimalist. She uses them in decorative patterns on a number of dresses toward the back of the collection. The most attractive is probably a starburst of studs on a black sheath with studded leather bracelets on the wrist. There’s a dichotomy between the toughness of the studs and the softness of the fabric and the cut that works in a strange way that’s difficult to explain.

I also found her take on the bomber jacket rather unique. The Hermés version is hooded in a very nice style. While I’m still tired of seeing all the distressed leather and lambs wool, at least she give the look a spin that’s different from everyone else.

There’s something about the diagonally cut, same-colored panels in the final few dresses that feels a bit futuristic. On some, there’s an obvious change of fabric, going from suede to satin, but that only makes that sense of other-worldliness stronger. Are these evening gowns or elaborate costumes from the set of Supergirl? They’re attractive either way, but one needs to have a strong, determined walk to really make the look work for them.

This hardly feels like the same label from a year ago. I think Vanhee-Cybulski has figured out how to work with the heritage of the house rather than against it. Hermés is much stronger, much more viable now. Definitely worth your time to look.

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