On Saturday afternoon, a reporter gleefully left his laptop screen and headed out on a crisp and sunny Paris day to attend a real-live fashion show. Imagine that! Arriving at the Gendarmerie Nationale-Garde Républicaine, the venue for the Hermès fall 2021 collection unveiling, he sanitized his hands, put on a fresh surgical mask and entered a darkened tent — only to encounter about two dozen, well-distanced seating cubes, each equipped with headphones and a screen. Arrrgh!
There was a good reason, though. The runway modeling that took place here amid a set stacked with hundreds of orange Hermès hat boxes was bookended by two live performances — one beamed in from New York; the other from Shanghai. These helped accentuate the varied characteristics of Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s latest collection, which continued her recent exploration of tough-girl chic with the surprising addition of flou, the latter being something outside of her comfort zone, she said after the show.
Tony Hermès is not the kind of house to issue a TikTok challenge, but it could. Seven dancers in New York roamed a vast stage appointed with swirling orange curtains, building from subtle, slow-motion voguing to the kind of full-on, synchronized joint-jabbing that keeps Gen Z glued to their phones. The women wore sweet smiles, raisin-colored turtlenecks, long jersey skirts edged in leather and tall boots with sturdy heels. The performance was charming.
And then the real-live fashion show — which you could also watch on your screen to get a better view of the leather seaming detail on the denim ensembles that opened the display, or the fringe that swished on leather and suede toppers. Vanhee-Cybulski paraded lots of neat, belted jackets, roomy coats, straight-cut trousers and pencil skirts that don’t constrict. After a surprising, sensual Helmut Lang-ish spring outing, she returned her focus to more reserved, patrician styles.
She used leather more sparingly than in the past, dabbing it here and there on a breezy cranberry trench coat, for example. Those jersey skirts from the New York performance made an appearance, along with a pleated dress with a high neck, loose sleeves and flecks of lurex.
The Shanghai performance had four lithe, short-haired dancers in leather pants and checkered sweaters frenetically shifting orange packing crates around the stage and flinging themselves and each other around them. It was a bit wrenching to watch, and TikTokers surely won’t emulate it. But if Celeste Barber is reading this, she should consider herself challenged!