Artistic Director Of Hermès Menswear, Véronique Nichanian Understands There’s An Important Difference Between Trends And Taste
What she knows about you.
BY John von Sothen | Mar 13, 2017 | Fashion
It’s time we paid attention to the woman behind the curtain. You’ll find her in Paris, in a fitting room on the fourth floor above the famed Hermès store on Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and Rue Boissy d’Anglas. There stands a petite brunette who’s been driving men’s fashion for the past three decades as chief designer for menswear at Hermès.
Véronique Nichanian designs suits, jackets, shirts—anything she thinks will help a man express himself better. To her, a man’s wardrobe should be an extension of his personality. Hermès’ DNA comes from its origin as a harness and saddle workshop. It’s a low-key house with nothing to prove and nobody to impress. Within this environment, Nichanian has thrived. She doesn’t believe in la mode. “I make clothes,” she says. “It’s different.” Here, she pulls back the curtain a little further.
It’s gloomy out there—is it tough to create when the world’s on fire?
It’s tough. Here we are making clothes and people are outside killing each other. When I first started at Hermès, around the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, I had a conversation with Jean-Louis Dumas, the head of Hermès, and he told me, “Only beauty can save the world. That’s what’s going to pull people back up.”
How do you do that?
This season I wanted to change the discussion, to talk about light, positive things. That’s why I went with really bright colours. Something that wakes you up like the sun.
What do you aim for with your designs?
I want my clothes to talk to the person wearing them. That’s my signature. For example, a lot of my clothes have this glovelike leather inside the pocket. It’s a secret detail. Nobody knows there’s expensive leather inside the pocket except for you. It’s my way of talking softly to men.
Do you try to anticipate trends?
No. I’m more interested in cultivating a style than trying to capture a look in the future. I like when men mix stuff from two years ago with stuff from five years ago.
Do you analyse men’s clothes on the street?
That’s my day job. It doesn’t carry over. I prefer bad taste and fashion failures because I find them supercharming. It’s like a crooked nose or a knocked-out tooth. It’s the expression of oneself.
How do the French dress compared with Americans?
The French have a free spirit. I always think of Serge Gainsbourg—that nonchalant chic. I find that less with the Americans, but then the Americans invented sportswear, which is a superintelligent way of living. Comfort is essential in menswear. As a woman, I can wear a tight-fitting dress and it’s okay, it’s sexy, and I’ll live. With a man, it’s not the same. If you don’t feel like yourself, that’s a real problem. A man is seductive when he’s feeling good about himself. And Americans are very good at that.
Do you worry some men are intimidated by the brand?
Maybe they have an old vision of Hermès, or the stores intimidate them, but that’s the great thing about the Internet—you can visit these clothes without feeling intimidated. I think Americans like stuff with a sense of humour, and that’s exactly what I like doing. To have fun around the clothes.
Have you ever thought of working somewhere else?
I could have gone elsewhere, but this is like a long, beautiful relationship. Hermès gives me the luxury of time. Here we say, “Time makes things.” And nowadays especially, it’s important to have time to try things, to express oneself, to innovate.
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