Hermes: One house sets the worldwide standard for luxury — Hermes. Its different-drummer philosophy is as intrinsic as its commitment to quality. That stance has resulted in Hermes’ steadfast refusal to engage in the editorial gymnastics that are so much a part of the fashion routine everywhere else. And so, each season, Martin Margiela continues on, tweaking the look of quiet personal luxury he has established for the house.
In the collection he showed on Sunday, Margiela did exactly that, with strong results. Over the past few seasons, he has whittled his once-Amazonian proportions to manageable size. Now the cuts are trimmer, the tailoring leaner, even displaying the occasional hint of sexiness. For fall, that meant an off-the-shoulder sweater or a seductive satin shirt paired with pleated pants, and the addition of “over” pieces, skirts or dresses slit in front and topping monotoned underpinnings. Along the way, while the focus remains on the classics, Margiela has infused the line with a more feminine aura, discreet but pretty, as in, say, a beautifully understated mink coat.
While the hope remains that Margiela will one day do something a little bolder with the Hermes heritage, he clearly has no intention of that, at least not now. He has chosen his course, and it’s one that obviously keeps Jean Louis Dumas happy. These clothes are not about flaunting one’s body or wealth; they’re not for preening. They are not about the viewer, but the wearer — her desire for personal luxury, for the feel of the best fabrics against her skin, for the secret knowledge that she’s wearing the best. And that might just be the most narcissistically fashiony attitude of all.
Stella McCartney: Let’s get the quip out of the way early: Yes, Stella got her groove back. In the collection she showed on Monday morning, her second under the Gucci regime, Stella McCartney did exactly what she had to do: prove herself as a smart, focused designer who learns from past blunders.
While visiting Sirs Paul of London and Giorgio of Milan looked on, applauding enthusiastically from the front row, Stella showed a focused, smart collection. Although not perfect, it was clearly the work of someone willing to listen to her critics while remaining quintessentially her own person. That meant retaining the rock-chick attitude while tempering the trash factor with a softer sexiness.
McCartney opened with wonderful parkas and huge, cabled sweaters. These topped girly dresses and pants. In fact, she often layered her take on witchy Stevie Nicks dresses with multiple floaty appendages over pants, perfect for an MTV garden party, or, for those girls who only dream of such access, a neat way to make see-through wearable. Throughout, she paired masculine with feminine and plain with frills — for example, the sweet puffed sleeves of a delicate shirt popping out above an off-the-shoulder sweater. McCartney also freshened her tailoring, making it more sophisticated and less specific to hip London types, and as a result, her coats and jackets should attract a broader range of customers. But Stella hasn’t forgotten her core constituency, and she showed plenty of her tighter-than-tight pants and frilly tops for all those skinny fashion girls out there who can’t get enough of them.
Akris: Swiss whiz Albert Kriemler is the retailers’ sweetheart — and why not, when his collections for Akris continue to sell, sell, sell? For fall, Kriemler composed a little billet doux that should thrill both retailers and fans alike. Good-looking clothes were plentiful, from his short belted trench to his high-collared fur and from his cashmere officer’s coat to a black jacket trimmed in white fur. These days, the label is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. market, and the company plans to open a swanky new store on Madison Avenue later in the year.
As for the collection, Kriemler has taken the look light and lean. Approachable, sophisticated clothes are still his main focus, but new proportions made it all look fresh. White blouses, each graced with a little Swiss lace, hinted at both Victorian tops and the current fascination with peasantry without ever going overboard. An off-the-shoulder dress in black chiffon was sexy, not vampy. Each of Kriemler’s coats, now cut in lankier proportions, should get those cash registers ringing. Refined luxury — that’s the Akris way. And the label Kriemler’s grandmother started 80 years ago has never looked younger.