Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski, artistic director of women’s fashion at Hermès

Maybe that’s taking armchair psychology too far, but the Spring/Summer 2023 collection, which she finished weeks ago and which hangs on rails and rails – it’s vast – around us contains a lot of things that would look feminine and even sexy. Racerbacks, cropped sides, dresses you can’t really wear with a bra (don’t worry, she thought about it and used a stretch fabric that holds everything in place), little baby cashmere knit shorts mustard… its rebellious side stands out. But there is plenty of practicality, namely reversible garments and drawstring waists that allow the wearer to adjust the figure. These, along with his obsession with buttonholes and fastenings, mean that the duality of luxury and function runs through all of his collections. It’s the company’s 1837 origins – meticulously crafted leather saddles – rewritten as a fad.

For all her sophisticated tastes – the apartment she shares with her British gallerist husband Peter Cybulski, with its impeccably curated swirl of contemporary art by Rhys Coren and Julie Beaufils, Japanese porcelain, 1960s Italian lighting and a spongy sofa George Sherlock – she is a genuine rebel. In her late teens, she had short hair, hugely oversized jeans and white clogs — “so ugly,” she says. Yet some 20 years later she introduced a refined version in the Spring 2020 collection, and to the surprise of almost everyone, at over £700, the clogs have become cult.

To understand some of what makes Hermès so special, aside from the company’s almost religious insistence on quality, the endless waiting lists for its Birkins and Kellys, and the way the house seems to be slipping above the fray of the fashion trade, such as ditching the madness of several collections a year in favor of two, the old-fashioned way, we should stop for a moment with these clogs. Because as she would be the first to point out, it was not she who designed the clogs, it was Pierre Hardy who did.

‘The fact is that Hermès is a collective, with 16 different professions [specialisms is the nearest translation], each with their own creative director,” she explains. These professions are extremely diverse – leather, perfume, porcelain, watches, scarves and more recently make-up – but united by a reverence for craftsmanship.

“We’re like Jedi,” she says. “We all meet very early in the process of a collection to exchange ideas.” If she wants a shoe to complement a silhouette with a nipped-in waist and wide shoulders that she’s planning for the next collection, she can ask Hardy (who’s in charge of jewelry as well as shoes) what he can design, and he ‘I’ll come back with a finished product,’” she said. ‘It’s the same with leather goods [leather goods]. It’s a whole grid of creativity from which I can draw. I’m so lucky.’ I ask if the lipstick marks on her hands are from a meeting with the makeup team. “No,” she said, laughing. They just played with my daughter this morning. To be honest, I’m not a big makeup artist.

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