First Lady Melania Trump’s go-to stylist and designer Hervé Pierre is trying to launch a well-edited collection of dresses with as little fanfare as possible.
Pierre would prefer to stay out of the limelight — he was even reluctant to pose for a portrait with Nicolas Caito, his partner in this venture. The former longtime creative director at Carolina Herrera has pretty much been a free agent since leaving the corporate life last year. Although designing FLOTUS’ inaugural gown rocketed him into worldwide recognition, Pierre has resumed his low-key way of life while still working with the First Lady and select clients, shopping the stores and designing a collection with Caito. In fact, Caito suggested they team up to introduce the 12 dresses, which will be unveiled early next month.
“There are so many people who just put their name on clothes and they don’t have the training. At least with Nicolas, it is a relationship between the head of a sample room, a premier atelier as we say in French, and a designer,” Pierre said. “That’s how a good dress is born. We work on the mannequins and ask, ‘How can we do this?’ There is a true discussion because a collection is not just a sketch that you send somewhere and it’s done. A designer without a sample room is really nothing. One designer is not enough. You need people who create the craftsmanship, including the girls who sew everything.”
At the moment “too scared” to host press appointments for the Atelier Caito for Hervé Pierre label, Pierre traced some of that trepidation to his 25-year-old self at Balmain. As the creative director for haute couture for two-and-a-half years in the early Nineties, he said he “suddenly became a big shot with a fantastic life invited to all the black ties. But I put my wing a little too close to the sun,” Pierre said. “The day you get fired in fashion you are absolutely no one. That is exactly what happened to me. Afterward, I said, ‘Never again.’”
Caito’s and Pierre’s careers have been entwined for years, thanks to couture training in their native France. Thirty years ago at Balmain, Pierre learned the ropes in the sample room from François Bouchet, who became the premier atelier at Lanvin under Erik Mortensen. After Pierre had made his way to New York, his boss at that time, Oscar de la Renta, was looking for someone to head up a sample room. Pierre emphatically named Bouchet, who was hired. As it turned out, Bouchet had trained Caito for eight years at Lanvin before Caito became premiere at Hermès with Martin Margiela.
Years later in New York, Caito met Pierre at Bill Blass, where Caito managed the eveningwear sample room during the Lars Nilsson years. Caito’s next stop was a two-year one at Rochas, working for Olivier Theyskens. In 2005, Caito opened his namesake atelier in New York’s Garment Center, quietly creating patterns for such designers as Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen, Calvin Klein in the Francisco Costa days, Rosie Assoulin and others. Caito helped with the sample making for the inauguration gown Pierre designed. But Trump has not yet seen their newest collaboration.
“She doesn’t really know exactly all of the details, but she is aware. She is very excited, of course,” Pierre said. “It has nothing to do with her. When I look at the collection, maybe two pieces would be for her. But I didn’t design with her in mind. I believe a good designer is also a good merchandiser. You cannot put all your eggs in the same basket. I decided I needed a little sack dress, a form-fitted one, another for a bigger bust, and one for bigger hips — a V-neck, a crewneck, sleeves, no sleeves. You have a grid and you try to find an answer for every category.”
Purely commercial, next month’s introduction will consist of only black or navy dresses that are meant to be worn repeatedly and not subject to the whims of fashion. With an opening price point of $1,700, the Atelier Caito for Hervé Pierre label will include cocktail dresses at $4,400 and evening gowns for less than $7,000. After 15-plus years of in-store clinics and advising buyers in showroom appointments, Pierre said of his selective approach, “The stores are oversaturated with products. So there are 12 dresses and maybe I will add 10 others in May or June, depending on the pieces that sell.“
If the New York debut goes well, Pierre plans to show the collection in Paris in January, partially to cater to stores from the Middle East and Russia that have inquired about his plans. The first 12 dresses will arrive in stores in March or April, intentionally times to arrive after spring deliveries and before pre-fall ones. His clients are more inclined to “be under-the-radar, wearing beautiful pieces that are not screaming a designer name or have a huge logo,” he said. “What we see all over the news, on Instagram and on social media, is just people who want to show their wealth, money and whatever. But there are so many layers of women who I know who absolutely don’t want to exhibit their wealth or stature. It’s a hidden luxury. That, I respect completely. I’m not part of it because I don’t have this kind of lifestyle. I’m a witness.”
As for his own personal forecast, Pierre said, “I really don’t know where this is going. If it’s successful, of course I will have the huge ego of a king and I will be unbearable. But for the moment, I am walking on eggshells and I am trying to do things step-by-step. For me, if success comes, it will be from people buying my clothes and wearing them. It won’t just be vitriol.”