Since her arrival as women’s creative director at Hermès two years ago, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has dealt in an aesthetic politely referred to as “quiet luxury.” She’s worked the minimal side of tasteful timelessness, turning out collections that are deferential to the house codes of leather, scarves, equestrianism and French savoir faire. It goes without saying that Vanhee-Cybulski’s designs have been beautifully crafted from the finest quality materials — this is Hermès — as they were for spring. But to call a spade, the luxurious hush can get numbing.
Not an iota of Hermès’ aura of elite, elegant indulgence was in the air at the show space: a barren room sectioned into clinical corridors by sheer white screens. It made for undistracted viewing of the clothes, which included workwear and sport-infused classics: a windowpane plaid men’s shirt in light green tucked into extrawide khakis; mauve, pink and slate workwear-inspired separates and jumpsuits; a mid-length fuschia leather dress with a smocked waist; a finale of flowing apron gowns with racer-backs and ruffled panels. But neither the set nor the collection compensated for the other’s lack of energy. Shoes, such as sling-back wing-tipped brogues, and bright lunchbox handbags provided little pick-me-ups. Hermès is a house with a gleaming, near infallible image and rich history. Why play it down?