Understated Wardrobe Essentials to Emulate Your Luxurious Lifestyle
It would be wrong to ask Hermès about fashion. The luxury house doesn’t concern itself with the flux of the seasons or the turbulence of the business. No tiptoeing around musical chairs or shifting production cycles or hunting for the newest new. Like its clients, who are part of the small circle of the extremely wealthy, it rises above all, exercising a freedom to do whatever the hell it wants.
The enviable position allows it to spin garments that are seasonless and ageless and tasteful (or timeless and works for all and restrained), as if the French label works with magical hands that prevent any of its creations from crossing into the faddish and therefore common.
The trick is that there are no tricks. The clothes don’t fool you with promiscuous adornments or weird cuts or proportions. Instead, they serve you well in their expression of taste, all told with precious materials, which have been crafted by hand—sometimes with just one pair of hands like how a Birkin bag is made.
Two years ago, it unleashed a crocodile-skin puffer vest upon the world. Women bow down to waiting lists for elusive Birkins, this was like a Birkin but better because the skin wraps around your own. It was glorious and must have been beyond expensive, something that only Hermès could do. It was daring, too.
The biggest misconception about a luxury house as venerable as Hermès is that it must be serious and maybe even humorless, but an old house need not be stuck making boring clothes. Somewhere along its history, as it perfected the creation of bridles and harnesses, ties with hidden messages, or a jacket that glistens in the right light, the company cultivated a culture of cleverness, its signature call-out for luxury.
It’s no surprise then when Hermès chooses the Tokyo International Airport as the stage for The Nature of Men, its men’s wear presentation on this side of the world, but it is still a thrill to be driven to an unknown destination and then deposited within an earshot of the thrum of Boeing 787s.
The lights go off and, just to remind you of the peculiar location, the cry of an alarm signals the closing of the airport hangar’s humongous double doors. Véronique Nichanian, artistic director for Hermès men’s universe, dreamed up that croc vest (later succeeded by a sweatshirt and a hoodie), and while nothing as audacious reminds you of the reptilian look, the maison’s wit is evident in the Fall 2016 collection.
It winks at you in the colors. The raspberry in a slouchycable-knit sweater and a shirt whose collar you can button up to create a funnel neck, and the turquoise on the reverse of a leather jacket are surprising for the cold season, but may just be the tonic you need in the crazy atmosphere that engulfs the world right now.
Colors translate on a photograph, but the textures—well, you have to drop by a shop to understand them. When pieces are made with a high degree of finesse, they should be seen in person, touched by hand, and worn on the body.
A few years ago, you came upon an Hermès jacket whose furry wool transitioned so fluidly into slick leather. Nichanian, who has spent over two decades at the maison (she is probably the designer with the longest tenure at present), is known for playing with materials, in particular, the most beautiful leathers, adding subtle twists to inject attitude or sensuality. She once lined pockets with lambskin just to give men a surprise.
That mix of textures is continued here: in a black slicker whose leather appears so crispy-thin that you imagine crumpling it in your hand like paper, or a baseball jacket whose prism of incandescent blues transforms its herringbone pattern into irregular stripes when moving in the light.
A series of jackets is a study in tactility with smooth, matte leather juxtaposed against a shaggy-as-a-rug lining in that turquoise or a drunken red, while a mackintosh shows how to break the monotony of black with panels of softness on a sleeve and a breast, a treatment that is just the right amount of different.
Working with a mandate of perfect taste does not encumber Nichanian. Having done this for so long, the designer has constructed a very specific language about the clothes of men who have it all. Consider this season’s pieces and those ahead of it and those before, and realize they are all standbys—pullovers, DBs, or trousers that may be found in your own non-one-percenter closet—but contextualized with a swerve of brilliant color, sometimes pattern, an intelligent experimentation with textiles, and that relaxed attitude that is achieved when clothes do not try so hard.
The label may not be top of mind when it comes to creating a sea change in the way men dress, and that’s okay because it’s not interested in doing that. Nevertheless, Hermès is part of the conversation. Nichanian was among the first designers who took sportswear and remade them in expensive fabrics. You could say that this old house did athleisure long before it was fashionable, and it has done so with an unimpeachable construction that allows it to transcend the trend.
Which just maybe the truest meaning of luxury: taking everyday clothes and transforming them into their greatest incarnations. What can be more money than lounging in a crewneck sweater that just happens to be made of baby-soft cashmere? These are exceptional clothes, but they are the kind of clothes that men can wear day-to-day at work and what comes after.
This season, Hermès poses the question of what makes a man, and through the jumble of pieces in the collection, you can infer that he is someone who takes on a full life characterized by energy and movement, maybe a few complications, and always an easygoing fun.
You go all-in at work, charm the pants off your boss, knock back a couple of drinks with your buddies at the bar, and come home to the woman you cherish. You take the most stylish vacations whenever you can or just chill at home with your best friend, a chocolate Labrador.
At least, that’s how we imagine how our beautiful lives should be. For the very rich, it’s more or less the same—except that they are dressed in all this finery.