While this is not my first runway review for PurseBlog, this is my first where – thanks to all of your positive and supportive feedback! – I feel comfortable sharing my unfiltered personal impressions. I am not a trained fashion writer, and even though I’m very honored to have a place here at PurseBlog, I write from the perspective of a client, a civilian, someone who is not of the fashion world, but has taken plenty of vacations there. I’m knowledgeable about art and fashion primarily from a legal perspective, although I’ve gained a certain amount of practical, behind-the-scenes knowledge of the business as the parent of a moderately-successful child model who worked in various areas of that industry for several years. So although I don’t come from an insider viewpoint, I understand and respect how much this is a business; how companies have to find a balance between being true to their brand and remaining relevant; how they have to be visible, but for the right reasons; and how they must keep essentially saying “the same thing” but in different ways each and every season.
On the other hand, I really don’t see much in the way of critique from the fashion world. Something is fabulous, or “modern” (ugh), or it’s just ignored. Many designers seem to have a convergence of at least a few ideas, singing the song of the season with their particular voice. And admittedly I don’t have much patience for artifice, for nonsense, for taking anything too seriously or for self-congratulations (all of which seem to be perennial staples of this industry, to varying extents). I know better than to peel a rotting banana off the wall at the Whitney Museum, but I will point out the absurdity of believing that a rotting banana belongs on that wall in the first place.
So, dear reader, just know that my reviews here on PurseBlog are only going to come from this, my potential client’s perspective, and will be written honestly, with a view toward practicality. Also, I’d like to keep my reviews moderately entertaining (my husband and teen boys insist that they are actually reading my articles) so don’t be surprised if I include a bit of humor as well.
On March 6th Hermès had its women’s Autumn/Winter 2021 runway show online, “a live presentation in three acts”:
1. New York, 2.30 pm (per Hermès Instagram: “Let the movement begin”);
2. Paris, 2.38 pm (the clothing/accessories presentation); and
3. Shanghai, 2.48 pm (“Grace through motion”).
Using the hashtags #FashionTriptych #HermesAroundTheWorld and #NYCParisShanghai, Hermès has taken another welcome step towards bringing us further in, drawing us closer to the brand and to the mindset behind the creativity necessary to maintain “corporate Hermès” (as a constantly evolving entity), even attempting to bring us closer together – to make our world feel even smaller – with the universal languages of art and movement, an idea which is genuinely welcome at a time when physically we have all been so far apart. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has produced yet another winning season of desirable, wearable, (though not necessarily affordable) classic pieces and presented them in a very accessible (if perhaps occasionally a bit heavy-handed) and enjoyable way: there weren’t many surprises, but the few presented in the accessories department will generate enough buzz to keep the fashion set talking without overwhelming the visibility of the genuinely gorgeous ready-to-wear pieces.
I am going to highlight each piece of this “triptych” presentation itself separately and then dive into the fashion.
NEW YORK, 2.30 pm
This part began with one, then two, then several women (dancers from the New York City Ballet; huge props to Hermès for giving them this opportunity to perform for us!) striding around, among curtains. They started moving fluidly, with hand motions, repetitively. They were all dressed similarly – I was going to say the same, with dark brown slim-fitting turtlenecks, dark brown long belted skirts and boots, but one woman was inexplicably wearing a dark brown knit top with very fluid sleeves instead (Why didn’t she match? Was this on purpose? Did something happen?). The look – chocolate brown ensembles, turtlenecks/skirts/boots, natural makeup and hair – was, for me, a very mid-70s vibe, and quite honestly, with them gallivanting around somewhat like extras from Godspell on what eventually appeared to be a curtained sound stage (for those of you who remember this sort of scenario from the 70s, I half expected for them to saunter across Mummenschanz, or the Ballet Zoom troupe). It seemed like the continued walking and striding was going to build up to something – like the Jets and the Sharks, or perhaps they would break out into a rendition of the Cell Block Tango – but of course this was about fashion, the clothing, and a bit of gentle entertainment. I understood this section to be about movement (Hermès deemed this first part “let the movement begin”), how the clothes were just a part of it, as what we wear is a part of our lives and comes along with us on our journeys and our movements of the day. I just would have liked to have seen more actual dance here; these women have not been able to perform for the past year. It was a good idea and well-executed, although perhaps a bit too long for the movement to build without a real crescendo; after all, as professional ballet dancers, this was barely a warm up for them.
At any rate, after about 7 1/2 minutes, the dance ended and we were directed to a screen that said:
PARIS 02.38 pm
This was the actual fashion show (is it really a runway show if there is no runway?) and, everything in the presentation was, really and truly – perfection! I am enjoying this newer method of presentation, where the models aren’t just walking back and forth and then disappear backstage until the end, but they come out, walk around the stage on a predetermined path, then they go to their mark and they stay there for the presentation. This way we really get a good look at what’s being presented, how it moves and a view of the entire collection. This was again on a wide soundstage, with a multi camera setup where they didn’t hide the camerapeople (I assume during the presentation they were being used for promotion shots because for most of the the show the two viewpoints used were both facing the stage, not on it). The first two models set the tone for the show: the first, coming out to a minimal beat, was serious, sharp-suited, and androgynous in an open center-zip collared denim jacket with large patch pockets, the turtleneck, cropped pants, chunky chain necklace and boots. The second model was an alternative; suddenly the beat changed, adding a bass line, the model wearing a more feminine version of the first outfit: same materials, same turtleneck and boots, but with a closed collarless jacket and a skirt. The show moved from point to counterpoint with various versions both feminine and masculine, still with a heavy 70s influence (windowpane plaid and a brief glimpse of Ziggy Stardust were sprinkled in there), and progressed quickly and fluidly until the end, where there were multiple sustained camera shots from various points on the stage, focused on one model with others visible in the background, and then a few wide-angled shots.
If I had one quibble, at the end the models were all frozen, like a tableaux, and I would have preferred that they appeared more relaxed and, well, lifelike (this isn’t a music video, people; you’re not trying to make a point, you’re trying to show your wares and breathe life into them).
Then Ms. Vanhee-Cybulski came out, applauded her models, and walked to another video screen leading to –
SHANGHAI, 2.48 pm
The Shanghai sequence was another celebration of movement, but here it was a bit more rewarding. The dancers began with pushing and rearranging large stylized Hermès boxes (I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere) and moved towards graceful dance movements. Shanghai was in one way a counterpoint to New York and in another way it brought the three “acts” together: while the New York dancers were definitely feminine with a soft, 70s look, the Shanghai stage was more of a blank canvas and the dancers were androgynous, wearing windowpane plaid tops and fluid black leather pants. They moved individually, then in pairs and collectively, bringing together the teased-out concepts of movement, life in motion, feminine/masculine, and most clearly, together and apart. It is this final concept that really drew me in (perhaps even a bit begrudgingly, as I was concerned that three parts could truly veer off into self-indulgence, or at least appear a bit demanding).
This unified presentation in three parts was one concept performed across the globe and observed (and observable) from everywhere, no plane ticket or invitation needed. It was, to my mind, a new version of the small private performances people used to have in their homes, writ large; for each of us individually it was a private performance for each and all to see, enjoy and interpret in their own personal way, both as an individual and as collective observers.
HERMÈS WOMENS AUTUMN/WINTER 2021
I’ve finally gotten to the point here…the actual fashion line for autumn/winter 2021. Well, if you’ve read this far, you’re not going to be disappointed. The fashion itself was F A B U L O U S. As I mentioned before, I saw a lot of 70s influence, a lot of emphasized collars, the masculine/feminine, and in its own unique way, a kind of emphasis on practicality in the beautiful pieces: dark and comfortable colors that can be worn over and over; leather, suede and fringe (not too much!), often in classic, wearable silhouettes that flatter and won’t overwhelm; familiar yet covetable pieces that won’t look dated next year or ten years from now.
There were a number of very pretty twillaine (silk, or silk and knit) pieces, including the usual dresses, in various flattering shapes which would work well through the fall and winter. A beautiful addition to the twillaine concept was a stunning short jacket, with a remix of the Brandebourgs scarf design, and what appeared to be a ribbed hem and cuffs. This jacket had incredible details that were not visible at first glance: slightly blouson sleeves bear the raised band-jacket-style detailing of the scarf design.
There were MANY stunning leather coats of various iterations, in black and dark brown, leather and suede. Some had either feminine details like a belt, flounce, or fringe –
– or a more masculine look –
Plenty of jackets incorporated both and had universally-appealing silhouettes. An updated version of the oversized shawl collar jacket has been teased to be reversible:
And a jacket like this could go for a coffee run, with jeans, or over one of the twillaine dresses:There were several looser styles that could also work for day or evening –
The silhouettes of the dresses were classic and easy to wear. Many were executed with very simple details (as here, a suede dress with leather just at the top was accented with stitching and fringe) and styled with bold jewelry including chunky chains.
The dress here has silver detailing with studs and rings on the belt.
Stitching on the leather and a plisséd skirt lend plenty of detail without overwhelming the look.
Of course there were plenty of beautiful dresses, some with that continued 70s vibe.
While last season the new clogs garnered a lot of attention, most outfits were accessories with boots, which did not seem to get as much focus as some of the other accessories this season. So far the piece that has gotten the most attention has been what Hermès is calling the “3 In 1” Birkin. This new iteration of the Birkin comes with an insert, which Hermès is calling the “Birkin Pochette”. Essentially the Birkin Pochette looks like the back flap closure of a Birkin and here it sits against the back of the front side of the bag, hooking onto the front handles. They are calling it a “3 in 1” because you can use this Birkin and the Birkin Pochette either separately, or together.
It appears that the “3 In 1” Birkin is an open tote, as the rear flap has been removed (so there is no closure for this bag at all, and therefore no clochette, lock or key, either). It also appears that the top of the Birkin Pochette just folds over and also does not have a closure. I wonder whether the Birkin Pochette will only come with these Birkins, or if it will also be offered separately (although I can’t imagine trying to find a match to your bag might be challenging). I do think it’s a good alternative to the bag inserts Hermès makes, if you are someone who likes to use those, and many people do (I personally do not, as I feel they take up too much room and they tend to press against the back of the bag, creating an outline of the back pocket which becomes visible from the back side of the bag – this Birkin Pochette hangs on the front side, and so would avoid that problem).
The only new bag I saw on the runway was this small one being called the “Hermèsway”. It appears to be a cell phone holder with a card insert (I’m wondering how secure that is…), a small pocket in front of that (with a cover that seems to just tuck in?) and an Hermès lipstick holder. I have spent the last three days trying to figure out what else could possibly fit in that lipstick holder if you don’t want or have an Hermès lipstick to put in it, because I’m not sure how great the bag will look if that part is empty. The best I can come up with is, the tubes are refillable, so I’m going to see if I can find any kind of hand sanitizer container that can fit in there, as we are all carrying that.
I understand that Hermès is promoting their new makeup lines – I personally love their lipsticks and have been wearing only theirs since they launched – but again, I’m not sure how practical this “Kiss Lipstick Holder” is.
The key/card holder is, however, much more practical. Since my teen started driving, he wears his car key on a lanyard so he knows he won’t misplace it when he goes out, and he hangs it on a hook when he’s home. This is a useful, accessible item for the younger set which may also appeal to current clients (easy to find in a bag, makes a great gift).
I should also mention that several models were also wearing the Hermès Apple Watch, and I hope this means an expansion of the line with regards to straps (maybe a few with gold or rose gold hardware, please?).
So, now that you’re read my deep dive, let me know your opinions! Did you like the show? What were your favorite pieces? Would you use a Birkin Pochette or wear a Lipstick Holder?