Christophe Lemaire is leaving Hermès

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doloresmia

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Fashion’s musical chairs commence anew, as Christophe Lemaire leaves Hermes

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2014...nce-anew-as-christophe-lemaire-leaves-hermes/

Fashion isn’t a house of cards – where one ill-judged manoeuvre brings the whole thing tumbling down – but rather a game of Kerplunk!. Meaning, if you twiddle the wrong bit, it makes a lot of noise and you lose a few of your marbles, but the whole thing doesn’t crash to the ground.

That’s what occurred to me when news broke today of Christophe Lemaire’s mutual parting of ways with the French luxury juggernaut Hermès after his spring 2015 show in October. He’s been artistic director of women’s ready-to-wear (note the adumbrated parameters of that title) for four years, and over the past twelve months rumours have swirled about his leaving.

As they do about most designers these days. Times are uncertain, jobs are always up for grabs. With all this emphasis on “codes” of houses and the dreaded “DNA” of brands, the point of these designer musical chairs seems to be to emphasise the inviolability of the label. Designers come and go, the house must still remain.

It’s always been that way at Hermès, though. Martin Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christophe Lemaire have passed through the womenswear studio in the past fifteen years – but I would question if any have really left that strong an impression on the house. You remember Margiela’s sleepy luxury, a bit like his own line but with everything made out of thousand-ply cashmere. That jolly, fetishy Gaultier opener with strap-on saddles and leather corsets made an impact, even if no-one much bought it.

And Lemaire’s last collection was lovely, as was his winter before. He isn’t terribly good with print, but he got the gist of the game: a coat that costs as much as a car, plenty of crocodile, good bags that you don’t fiddle about with (Gaultier, probably messed with them a bit too much). Hermès works much better for winter, because if you’re dropping an enormous amount of cash on something, it’s likely to be a gigantic overcoat or enveloping jumper as opposed to a filmy silk something. But still, it’s not immediately identifiable as ‘him’ rather than just ‘Hermès’.

It’s been selling, however. Axel Dumas, Chief Executive Officer of Hermès commended Lemaire for his “passion” and mentioned “very satisfactory financial results,” in his official statement. That’s a bit of an understatement – last year, Hermès posted an operating profit of 32.4 per cent, a historical record, on sales of 3.75 billion euros. It’s not purely down to Lemaire, of course – leather goods make up 44% of the company’s income, ready-to-wear barely half that (and that also includes the highly successful menswear collections helmed for over 25 years by Véronique Nichanian).

This year, there has already been a slow-down – a VAT hike on 1 April slowed sales growth in Japan from 21.7 percent in the first quarter to just 1.6 percent (less slowing, more hitting a brick wall). Bearing in mind that Japan alone counts for 12 percent of Hermès sales (to put that in context, the Americas as a whole are only 17 percent), it’s a hefty blow. Earlier this year, Dumas also addressed the prices of Hermès products, raising them 10 percent in Japan, about 4 percent in Europe and between 6 percent and 7 percent in the U.S.

It’s cynical to peg it all to figures, of course. But there’s something telling that this slowdown occurred when decision were presumably being made as to whether or not Lemaire would continue as Hermès head honcho. Plus, a designer shake-up is a sure-fire, tried-and-tested means to bring press (and therefore customer) attention to a label.

The inevitable question: who next? Given Hermès’ run of designers thusfar, a European name probably – although they could do a “Wanglenciaga” and bring in a young American to try and capture a different demographic. Joseph Altuzarra could be an interesting fit (French-born, New York based), but he’s in the Kering stable, hence presumably out-of-bounds (note: Margiela’s employment came before he sold a stake in his business to Renzo Rosso’s ‘Only The Brave’ holding company in 2002; he left in Hermès in 2003).

Then again, who wants a part-timer? Lemaire is bowing out stating “My own label is growing in an important way and I now really want and need to dedicate myself to it fully.” Maybe Hermès is looking to mimic their lucrative and lauded situation with Nichanian and employ a designer whose sole focus will be to build their womenswear line? Such as Olivier Theysken, the Belgian who cut ties with his former US employer Theory earlier this summer, perhaps?

Hermès is a plum gig for anyone. There’s a focus on craft, on the kind of awesome technical abilities to make crocodile behave like silk, and a money-no-object nonchalance in sewing said crocodile into a five-figure t-shirt. Which then actually sells. Hermès is one of the few remaining bastions of real luxury – where bags are ordered, rather than plucked off shelves, where perfume is only 6% of sales, rather than the cash-cow for a loss-leading façade of fashion.

It’s an interesting job, almost unique in the fashion world. But, as I said before, the designer is almost irrelevant. Hermès is the name that really matters.

Tagged in: Axel Dumas, Christophe Lemaire, Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier, Joseph Altuzarra, Martin Margiela, Olivier Theyskens, Renzo Rosso, Veronique Nichanian
 

doloresmia

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would love to see a phoebe philo-type replace lemaire although it leaves short curvy women like me out.... also would love a donna karan-type - with simple luxurious, excellent fitting drapes. i always thought lemaire's stuff was rather frumpy and regretted being unaware enough to be buying H RTW during the Gaultier days. I loved his simple jersey dresses and don't have one. :sad:
 

Suncatcher

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^ I agree with you. I don't really care for Hermes' RTW collections. When I see the pieces in my store, they look frumpy, matronly and kind of shapeless. I have long wanted to branch out into Hermes RTW but the pieces never grabbed me (nor do the prices, frankly).
 

Silversun

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I read the news with interest but don't feel it is going to affect much at all. H RTW has never been its core offering, and it's highly unlikely that the replacement is going to shake things up all that much, some interim publicity notwithstanding. Which is kind of the allure of H, really. The fact that the company's overall direction is so strong that they don't need to bring in high-profile individuals to dramatically rejuvenate and monetise the buzz. (Unlike, say, what Jonathan Anderson is apparently doing over at Loewe, which I observe with mute horror.)

Personally, the only H creative who I'd really miss - if he were to leave one day - would be Jean Claude Ellena.
 

Fabfashion

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Interesting article. Thanks for sharing, Ascella. I could never fit H RTW. I'm too short and some styles just make me look like I'm wearing a blanket.

Didn't know that there was also a VAT hike in EU and how it impacted Japan sales. And didn't know that Japan accounted for such a huge part of H sales (did notice that there seem to be a fair bit of pre-loved H bags from Japan though--now I know why).
 

sissy milano

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JPG jackets (called veste cavalier) in every material, from silk jersey to leather, passing throughout jeans and linen are piece of art for the cut.
nothing femminine and chic as his cuts... hope to see JPG again...I'm still drooling over the barenia corset...
 

birkel

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im sorry since i do not feel good trashing someone or their work and i hate mean people but in this case im so happy he is leaving !!!!!! i just do not like his Work proportions or style. JPG really spoiled me because his cuts combined with Hermes materials were just beyond perfection. i very much hope that they can re boost the ready to wear división because it i truly miss finding beauties like the jpg bombers long summer dresses and well fitted cotton shirts ......... i also feel Cristophes collections went too much on others trends like celine ...... and so Hermes lost its timeless look and appeal to me because this "trend" that he was getting inspiration from was not leaving me with usefull lifelong ítems. anyways again my hopes are up and im really happy he is no longer with H.




OOO AND I HOPE BAGS LIKE BOLIDE KELLY BIRKIN MASSAI VICTORIA MAKE IT BACK TO THE RUNWAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Ascella

Elysium
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Jun 24, 2008
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I find Lemaire's design for Hermès working fine on runway, but their shapes do not appear attractive on most body types.
 

Ascella

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Personally, the only H creative who I'd really miss - if he were to leave one day - would be Jean Claude Ellena.
Jean-Claude Ellena's successor is more or less already named, Christine Nagel joined Hermès March this year. If I remember correctly, the upcoming Cuir d'Ange in Hermessence is a joint work by the two. I can see certain parallel between hermessence and her previous work for Jo Malone, and she has proven that she can make block busters. But personally I am not too excited until seeing which way she chooses to go at Hermès, just sincerely hope that it does not spell fruity patchouli gourmand.
 

Chi town Chanel

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I agree that I wasn't a fan of Lemaire's RTW designs so it doesn't seem to be as much of a huge loss than a nice change. I'd like to get interested in H RTW, but there isn't anything that seems to suit me. The RTW by JPG was lovely, but at that time I was really Chanel focused and wasn't paying much attention (which I now regret). It will be interested to see who steps into the position. The mention of Olivier Theyskens seemed like a natural choice but I'm not a fan of his aesthetic either.
 

Silversun

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Jean-Claude Ellena's successor is more or less already named, Christine Nagel joined Hermès March this year. If I remember correctly, the upcoming Cuir d'Ange in Hermessence is a joint work by the two. I can see certain parallel between hermessence and her previous work for Jo Malone, and she has proven that she can make block busters. But personally I am not too excited until seeing which way she chooses to go at Hermès, just sincerely hope that it does not spell fruity patchouli gourmand.
Thank you for the info, that's really interesting to know. I looked her up and it turns out that I have quite a few of Nagel's Jo Malone fragrances, which I like well enough, but they don't seem to have that elusive special Ellena quality IMO. :-/

Sorry to be off topic! Now that I've had time to consider, I'm getting quite excited at the possibility of new RTW designs. It's an area of H that I've been wanting to get into, but the current designs are roundly (pun intended) unflattering on me. Here's hoping the new designer comes up with some things that are a bit more wearer-friendly. :biggrin:
 

Ascella

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Jun 24, 2008
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Thank you for the info, that's really interesting to know. I looked her up and it turns out that I have quite a few of Nagel's Jo Malone fragrances, which I like well enough, but they don't seem to have that elusive special Ellena quality IMO. :-/
Indeed, few contemporary perfumers can match Ellena in star quality :smile:.
 

QuelleFromage

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Jan 15, 2011
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I will be excited to find something wearable in H RTW besides a pareo and a riding jacket, not to mention something actually cut with awareness of the body. I am small and Lemaire's designs are just too baggy, although he did some nice textural stuff for fall.
 
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