“Yes Today is very much about a lot of media and information, everything going too fast, everybody can sense there is something wrong about that and I think Hermès marries the values of something a bit slower and authentic,” says Christophe Lemaire, artistic director of the brand for the past three years and himself self-confessedly “old-fashioned” when it comes to social media and even emails. “Fortunately my girlfriend is much more of a geek than I am, she’s more of this generation that’s familiar with the web and everything.”
For him, instead, it’s about having a sense of perspective.
“It’s about time, real luxury is time. The quality of relationships, human relationships. Personally, when I came to Hermès as a designer I felt very much welcome – the sharing of ideas and dialogue, support. I think it’s a pity that fashion became like war, so much pressure and violence, somehow and I think for a young designer it must be so hard,” he says.
Having been at Lacoste for ten years prior to his Hermès appointment and with an eponymous label under his belt, Lemaire – who is considered and quietly spoken – is a seasoned designer, so the pressure and pace of fashion is something he has learned to tame.
“I have a little bit of experience and I have distance with that. I always had a distance with fashion. I love designing, I love clothes, I love my work, but I’m very clumsy with my own image. And the media thing, I’m never interested in the circus around fashion – it’s all about image and I’m more interested about something that is true and that makes sense,” he says.
And something is certainly making sense right now – last week the brand reported a solid improvement of sales in the third quarter, growing by 12.9 per cent at constant exchange rates and, separately, celebrated all things Hermès with a special Woman’s Universe event in Paris. And there is quite a universe – the bags (of course), the scarves, the shoes, the jewellery and the ready-to-wear…
“Hermès is very special in that there is such a strong working culture. It’s very much like a family thing and everyone is involved,” points out Lemaire. He’s keen to note that it’s the constant dialogue and exchange of ideas among those who work there that contribute to the success that it is: Pierre Hardy on shoes and accessories and artistic director Bali Barret.
“It’s different from other luxury brands in the sense that there’s not really one head designer,” he sums up. “It’s very much us talking together, an exchange, and there is not a parameter of organisation. When you come to Hermès, you have to understand the beauty of it. It’s a different process and a different result but I like that.”