Au Revoir Hermès

Jean-Paul Gaultier said adieu to his designing gig at Hermès today with a sumptuous collection of smart Spanish gaucho-inspired of slim leather suits and soft jersey dresses that

Jean Paul Gaultier and Farida Khelfa

made editors and retailers alike wonder: how will his replacement, former Lacoste designer Christophe Lemaire ever measure up? “Jean-Paul Gaultier was one period of Hermès,” the company’s CEO Patrick Thomas told me after the show this rainy afternoon at the in the Halle Freyssinet, an old warehouse on the eastern edge of Paris. “And now we are entering a new period for the house with Lemaire. You’ll see.”

Perhaps he’s right. Each ready-to-wear appointment at Hermès in the last 15 years has made editors and retailers scratch their head in confusion. First their was eccentric deconstructionist Martin Margiela in 1997, who surprised us all by showing extremely demure lady-like clothes on older models, including actress and house muse Jane Birkin, in runway presentations in the company’s flagship store on the rue de fbg. Saint-Honoré. When Margiela left in 1999, then-company head and Hermès family member Jean-Louis Dumas, asked Gaultier, known as the Enfant Terrible of fashion*, to help find someone to design the ready-to-wear for the elegant 150-year-old French

leather goods house.

Christophe Lemaire for Lacoste

In the end, like Dick Cheney did as head of George Bush’s vice presidential search committee (also in 1999), Gaultier suggested could do the job himself, and unlike Cheney, he did it beautifully, taking his sharp suiting and sensual evening wear and combining it with the sumptuous materials available at Hermès—buttery suedes and leathers, light-as-air chiffons, the finest quality cashmere, silk and jersey. The collections were tasteful, affordable and extremely wearable, made for women over 40 who still wanted to look sexy and desirable in that conservative French way. “He gave me carte blanche,” Gaultier told me in 2004 about his boss at the time, Dumas. “The only thing he told me was, ‘Jean, I don’t want to see logos like we see everywhere else. Hermès is about discretion, refinement and subtlety.’” And at today’s show, he did that once again. As he did with his debut show for the house, Gaultier had a suite of eight cavaliers from the Calvacade Luraschi performing dressage under Saint-Louis crystal chandeliers (another Hermès group brand—synergy!) as the models—many of them Gaultier longtime favorites such as Erin O’Connor, Karolína Kurková and Angela Lindvall strode down the wood-chip covered runway with graceful authority in variations of the classic Gaultier couture suit and topped off with caballeros-style hats. Among the best: a skin-tight butterscotch suede jumpsuit and a brick red jersey smoking. For accessories, the Kelly made of woven willow and the tight chocolate flat-heeled boots stood out. And there were several waist-cinching corsets by Mr. Pearl. Gaultier closed the show with his former assistant and longtime muse, Farida Khelfa, dressed in a smart black tuxedo and white shirt, and dashed out to give her a long-stem red rose. A fitting farewell to a fine collaboration. * One of my favorite television programs in the 1990s was a U.K late night talk show called Eurotrash, hosted by hilarious French comedian Antoine de Caunes ** and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. Here’s a charming, gently blue clip of an interview they did with French First Lady Carla Bruni back when she was a top model. The program solidified Gaultier’s reputation as the

Hermès, Fall 2010

Enfant Terrible of fashion, and it’s believed to be the reason Bernard Arnault decided not to offer the Christian Dior couture job to Gaultier and gave it to John Galliano instead. Dior’s loss, Hermès’ gain. At least for a while…. Carla Bruni on Eurotrash ** If you ever have the chance to check out the best of de Caunes’s comedy sketches with French comedian José Garcia from their Canal Plus years, now aired on Canal Jimmy in France, do. They are the John Belushi-Bill Murray team of France. A choice moment:

Antoine Decaunes & José Garcia on Youtube