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Menswear that’s youthful, colorful and vital

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 27, 2021 5:00 am

A handsome, extremely well-dressed young man slouches in a sunlit stairwell in Paris.  Soon, other chicly turned-out young men join him, dashing up and down the steps of what looks like a school (it’s actually the Mobilier National, a French government furniture agency).

I’m watching the livestream of Hermès’ autumn/winter 2021 menswear show in Paris, and it’s a youthful, vibrant, colorful affair, full of clothes that in their vitality project an optimistic, lighthearted attitude after a very challenging year. 

The new collection is the work of Véronique Nichanian, the artistic director of Hermès Men’s Universe, who’s been with the company since 1988.  After 30 odd years, she’s still managing to create clothes that will please and excite Hermès’ loyal fan base, and likely earn the French luxury house some new converts as well.  Heck, I’m a woman and found myself coveting the clothes, bags, and shoes.

The new collection is the work of Véronique Nichanian, artistic director of Hermès Men’s Universe, who’s been with the company since 1988. After 30-odd years she’s still managing to create clothes that will please and excite Hermès’ loyal fan base, and likely earn the French luxury house some new converts as well.

In the nine-minute video directed by Cyril Teste, who also filmed Hermès men’s spring/summer 2021 show, Nichanian proves once again that she’s a disciple of color, anchoring much of the collection on Pantone’s colors of the year for 2021: Illuminating, “a bright and cheerful yellow… imbued with solar power,” and Ultimate Gray, a pebble shade representing “solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.”  Grellow, in other words — the gray and yellow that was all the rage in the design world a decade ago — which goes to show you that what goes around eventually comes back around.

Other shades are mixed and matched with the charcoal grays and mustard yellows: spicy cumin, licorice and pepper, lavender-pink wisteria, frosted and petrol blue, and Rouge H, a deep burgundy shade emblematic of the maison.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Hermès without the house’s signature orange, an autumn hue seen in a colorfully striped knit vest and most strikingly in an orange plaid jacket.

More ‘street’ than stuffy

Nichanian has outdone herself in terms of the jackets: more street-casual than boardroom-stuffy, there are two-toned ones mixing leather and fleece; jackets in bright, multicolored plaids; and, in possibly the ultimate marriage between athleisure and luxury, a hoodie cut entirely from Rouge H crocodile leather.

I wanted to reach through my laptop screen to stroke what looked like buttery-soft leather shirts used as layering pieces. What a luxe way to keep warm:  the Hermès man can pull a short-sleeved leather shirt over a turtleneck, or a long-sleeved leather shirt in place of a jacket, its stitching modeled after a western-style cowboy shirt.

 All in the details:  Leather shirts, exclusive prints, sneakers with unexpected color combinations and plaid leather bags project a more lighthearted, hopeful mood. 

For Nichanian, it’s always about the materials, colors, and details.  Teste’s camera would zoom in and rest on details like out-of-frame pockets stitched over other pockets, or a zipper set in an unusual place (as the gateway to another pocket, I’m sure).

Since we’ve only recently emerged from lockdown, Hermès pants are still as comfortable as loungewear, sporting drawstring waists and loose cuts that slightly taper and stop at the ankle.

The men’s bags include boxy totes and roomy carryalls that mix colorful plaid fabrics and leathers — perfect not just for an overnight or weekend getaway but also for fitting in all the paraphernalia needed during a pandemic.

And the shoes?  Though Hermès will always offer the smooth, sturdy-soled leather boots that are rooted in its equestrian heritage and have been mastered by its artisans, nowadays there is also an abundance of sneakers in happy colors like baby pink, powder blue, teal, and the aforementioned Grellow.

In all, even if it’s a colorful palette, Nichanian’s deftness with hues ensures that the Hermès man can easily throw layers on and it will mix and match in delightful ways.  If Hermès’ AW21 menswear is any indication, next winter will be a much better one indeed.

Banner photos: Screenshots from Hermès’ autumn/winter 2021 menswear show