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The Hermes Universe

Veronique Nichanian, menswear designer at Hermes, speaks to Indulge about her motivations
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First Published: Sat, Oct 27 2012. 01 24 AM IST
Veronique Nichanian.
Veronique Nichanian.
On 11 October, Hermes presented its Men’s Universe in Paris. At the event, designed to showcase ‘Hermes’s broad and deep’ portfolio for men, the highlight was the presentation of the Fall/Winter 2012 ready-to-wear collection designed by Veronique Nichanian. The next day, she spoke to Indulge about the collection and her motivations. Edited excerpts:
Your show in Paris seemed tremendously intuitive. Everything made sense. And what was surprising was how there was nothing superfluous. This is sensible clothing.
Yes. I don’t like doing fashion for fashion’s sake. It is not like I am sitting here closed out of the world and designing the precise clothing that will only look good on this precise man. Also, I always like to pick up normal men from the street for my shows. And last night, I did that. So that there is an element of reality to my clothes. Sure, these guys may not be very tall or they maybe a little fat…but this is true life. And I wanted to present my real clothes on real men.
And they seemed comfortable in their clothing…
After the show, all the models came and told me that they want to keep the clothes. Because it fit them so well. This really makes me very happy. It gives me the sense that I am making genuinely meaningful clothes.
There was also some amazing work with leather yesterday.
We are an amazing house when it comes to leather. Hermes has been doing this for years and years. I’ve been working with lambskin for many years. But now I am also working with crocodile. We can work with crocodile and treat the skin like nobody else in the world. Recently, we have done crocodile chiffon, which feels like a fabric. It genuinely does. So last night, I presented a shirt with crocodile chiffon.
You had a great trench coat as well.
Yes. And jeans. After the show, so many women came to me and said that they want to buy these jeans made of crocodile skin.
Usually when you attend shows like this, you need to appreciate them at two levels. First, there is the show itself. And the spectacle of the show. And then there is the actual object of presentation. And you need to mentally eject a lot of the superfluousness of the show to really appreciate the clothes. Last night wasn’t like that. There was very little that was superfluous.
First of all, my treatment is on the clothes and the nature of the clothes. The show itself is another aspect. The more important thing is that every single thing you saw at the show is now on sale in my store. This is the true reality, the true essence of a show. Also, my goal is to advance the universe of men’s clothing in a meaningful way. This is not just a show for the press. This is me telling you: look at these clothes. If you like them you can buy them right now. And you can see them on your friend or your partner. This is what I like. This is the realistic approach that I like.
And I think customers realize this. Last night after the show, customers came to me to talk to me about my clothing. Men were telling me that they have a sweater from my collection from five years ago…and things like that. They are talking about their clothes. Because they have a real relationship with their clothes.
Often these shows can be intimidating. Even for customers. Sometimes, it can be like a work of art. You appreciate it. You may realize that it is great art. But it is not easy to approach the artist or the art. Yesterday’s show was not intimidating.
I think so, too. People were thinking of what they wanted to buy immediately.
But also, yesterday’s show was not just about the ready-to-wear. The idea was to present the entire Hermes Men’s Universe. So we showed the shoes, the ties, the watches, the bespoke and all the leather goods. Because many clients perhaps know Hermes as more of a feminine brand. Maybe the men know of our ties and some accessories. But they don’t realize that we deal with a whole universe for men.
Also, we are the only house that can propose to a man his dream. I am not talking about “luxury” here. Because I think that word has ceased to have any meaning for me anymore. Everybody is doing luxury these days. But we do such high quality. And this is true luxury. This is a dream proposition for the man. Everything from the socks, the shoes, the shirt to the suit and the knitwear…everything is of such high quality and so unique in design. That is the true dream for a man, I feel.
What was your vision for the collection when you started work on it? What did you want to achieve?
You know each collection follows the one before it. It is not like I am thinking: okay there is an exhibition, somebody give me some ideas. Of course, I do get ideas from my travels, exhibitions, arts and architecture. But I also know what exactly I want to propose to men in the long term. So each collection is a logical progression from the previous one. So, this winter collection was focused on the shape of the suit. There is a reason for this. I think that men have now begun to wear a suit out of choice. And not just because they have to. Because of any compulsions. They have genuinely begun to enjoy wearing it. So I wanted to make a suit of their dreams. A suit for their life. A suit that makes them feel smart and sexy.
And then, for the spring and summer collection, I wanted it to be sporty and colourful. I wanted to propose sporty fabrics, but keeping them within traditional shapes. So a little twist on the traditional spring-summer shapes. So it is like I am writing a book year after year. A book that proposes to a man his perfect garment.
You’ve presented a universe of choice. But how does someone from a tropical location such as India wear a great suit without killing themselves in the weather?
This is really easy. You make it sound like this is a problem. You can layer very well in tropical climates as well. The trick is to choose the right fabrics. And get jackets without linings. Also, there are wool blends these days that are extremely light and comfortable. Just make sure that each layer breathes well.
‘Arceau’ chronograph watch in steel and leather: Rs.4.05 lakh
Classic men’s shirts: Rs.26,500 onwards
Men’s ties: Rs.11,400 onwards
‘Domino’ buckle with leather belt: Rs.27,000
Moccasins: Rs.49,000 onwards
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First Published: Sat, Oct 27 2012. 01 24 AM IST