Hermès Autumn-Winter 2024 Brings a Modern Disco-Era Revival

Visions of horses and motorbikes are dancing in our heads...

In some ways, a runway show is like a Rorschach test for the reviewer: look at this presentation and tell everyone what you see. A review is, therefore, somewhat self-indulgent, placing the writer in the center of the ring and directing the reader’s attention to their own vision rather than the designer’s.

The writer should, at least to some extent, reflect upon whatever the designer’s stated intentions are, although, of course, that ignores the influence of the designer’s own subconscious. It is inevitable that some part of the writer’s reflection is going to be based on their own knowledge and past experiences.

However, rather than diverging from the designer’s viewpoint for the season, a review can build upon it, drawing the reader (and ultimately the client) closer by creating those innermost synaptic connections between the client’s own memories and the clothing itself.

Bikeuse Équestre is the stated theme for Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s Hermès Autumn-Winter 2024 show: horses and motorbikes. (Well, I think, isn’t that pretty much always the theme here?)

For Hermès, one might be forgiven for thinking that’s a fairly generic and open-ended theme, and it’s easy enough for any viewer to make the connections between what we have been told and what we were shown.

It would have been perfectly acceptable (and easy, although perhaps a bit superficial) if we took it all at face value and played along. However, nearly 1/3 of the way through the presentation, I began to make my own personal connections to the work on the runway.

The Autumn-Winter 2024 Runway Evokes Memories

Prior to that, it was all very lovely: lots of thick, luscious leather in jackets from hip-length to trench, pants, and leggings in Rouge Sellier, Rouge Piment, Chocolate, Beige de Weimar, Jaune Poussin, Foin, and Black.

For distinct femininity, there had been perhaps one skirt (long, leather, slit to mid-thigh) and a dress (midi-length, silk) up until then, and in fact, even after it: the show definitely had a masculine – or at least androgynous – lean to it, and the next clearly feminine piece wasn’t shown until Look 21.

It was Look 16 that initially caught my eye: a young woman with a soft, childlike face and short hair wearing a somewhat masculine look – a large leather double-breasted overcoat with a wide fur collar, leather pants, and boots – save for the very feminine, small bra-like top, nearly hidden under the coat, and showing just a peek of midriff.

Hermès AW24 Look 16. Photo via Vogue.com
The memory-inducing coat from Hermès AW24 Look 16. Imagine the coat in Olive Green, and if you remember what it’s from, please DM me. Photo via Vogue.com

The Visual Influences of Autumn-Winter 2024

Once I saw it I could not unsee it, however, and then it was all I could see, again and again. Perhaps I was simply imagining or misremembering something with that coat, but following that, I could not ignore visual reference after visual reference, even if no one else seemed to notice.

In the “Dancing In The Street” video, Bowie wears what is essentially a mashup of Looks 46 and 14 – a long yellow relaxed coat with an exaggerated collar over a silk patterned jumpsuit.

As the show progressed, I took as many notes as I could on what I saw, from the details of the clothes to the memories they evoked.

A few of my notes from the show: Mad Max, Dune, Elvis, Shaft, Star Trek, Androgyny, Kramer vs Kramer, David Bowie, Escape from New York, Alien, Cabaret, The Hunger, Gen X, Blade Runner, Robocop, Dystopia…

A strong shoulder, a slim fit, small studding, razor-sharp tailoring, and pulled-back hair: dystopian femininity returns more than 40 years after Blade Runner.

Long brown coat, belt, vertically striped pants: 1971 comes to life in 2024.

The soft, slouchy, oversized tan trench and boots are reinterpreted as sophisticated comfort.

An undeniable shade of red and a high round neckline is always in style.

Oversized, rounded shoulders, leather striping, and multiple belt closures echo a futuristic ’80s vibe.

A soft, buttery-yellow double-breasted coat and a detailed neckline are always subtle yet statement-making.

…I had to know: am I imagining all of this? When was the designer born? It was almost a relief when I found the date:
May 30, 1978.
She is six years younger than me.

Exactly six years.
We share the same birthday.

Is it possible that all these cues are coincidental? Of course, but it’s not very likely.

It’s equally possible that, whether consciously or not, Vanhee-Cybulski – another 1970s Gen X Gemini – sent down the runway a visual time capsule evocative of that distinctly 1970s-to-mid-80s ennui when we had to be tough because it felt, at least as a child, like everything in the world was becoming more dark and dangerous, and spinning out of control.

Parallels: Then and Now

When our parents were children, they were sent home from school for lunch; they had Elvis and the Beatles, an economic growth boom, and the strength of being an enormous generation that could not be ignored.

We were latchkey kids with no one home; we had gas lines, Tylenol poisonings, nuclear threats from the USSR, AIDS, and a generation of adults – our parents – who seemed destined for overindulgence and self-destruction.

They saw themselves as increasingly free and without limits; we saw them as failing to understand that we needed rules and limits to feel safe.

This was reflected in the wider culture of those times, further imprinting a distinct vision upon Gen X, which included freedom and a few tentative steps toward equality, but also seemed to lack much clarity in anything and had a very strong undercurrent of dystopia.

Leather, layered necklines, zippers, belts, and skintight pants might not ring any bells, but the undone boots were a specific, conscious choice.

Why now, why this show?

For those who remember, it’s hard not to see the parallels. History may not repeat itself exactly, but it certainly casts echoes. Vanhee-Cybulski has captured those echoes and modernized them, expressing the same visual ideas in a way appropriate for our own times. The clothes must be approachable, but they still have to be desirable and function for how we dress today.

Studding can be overdone and subtle; long, oversized coats can be tough and masculine, but we can pair them with skirts or bared midriffs. A strong or rounded shoulder can be balanced with accessible details and paired with more fluid pieces.

I could be completely wrong about this, but in the end, it doesn’t matter as long as what I have said means something to any of our readers, even if we don’t all agree. The very best art evokes emotion, creating a connection between the viewer and the art, and it furthers our conversation, which is exactly what Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has done here for Hermès Autumn-Winter 2024.

The runway featured a good variety of bags, from the Birkin (sometimes handheld, sometimes carried over the shoulder, and sometimes carried in this unusual way) and the Verrou to newer styles in both large and small sizes.


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