Tag Archives: Christophe Lemaire

An Awakening

SKYWALKER

The Jedi look of the Star Wars universe is known even to those who have never seen a film. Ascetic with strong hints of Asia (and notions of Africa), spiritual, elegant, humble and at the same time grand, it is an aptly and often used reference in contemporary dress. Whether it’s cosplay at a sci-fi convention or a Rick Owens runway, it’s not impossible to find a real life context.

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Nehera Fall/Winter  2015

Authored by John Mollo for the first Star Wars film in 1977 (Mollo would go on to costume Alien and Gandhi), the look elucidates George Lucas’s spiritually guided, space-dwelling wizard-knights from a time long long ago in a galaxy far far away. To bring them to life Mollo created a unique language of dress that has since become a part of popular culture and consequently fashion. Long flowing fabrics purposely but casually draped. Tonal palettes made up of white, cream, beige, nut and earth.  Shawl and wrapped collars. Wrapped everything. A strong sense of calm as well as power. A look to the future? A memory of the past? You can begin to see what makes it so appealing.

One of the most enjoyable and important interpretations of the Jedi look, and what is possibly one of the best fashion moments in sci-fi history, is actually in the newest Star Wars installment, Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

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Marni Spring/Summer 2015

The film was costumed by the legendary designer Michael Kaplan, revered for his work on Blade Runner. Kaplan also worked with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams prior on his well-received Star Trek reboot.  The new Star Wars costumes are entirely based on Mollo’s precedent however Kaplan is charged with the hyper-complex task of negotiating late ‘70s retro-futurism with the look of today. The costumes are worthy of his reputation except in seldom moments where the designs are not as convincingly carried by the actors. In these minor but noticeable breaks in suspension of disbelief it was difficult to know whether it was the costume or the limits of the actor.

It’s not significant enough to dwell on. Ultimately, Episode VII is easily the second best Star Wars movie ever made (possibly the best). The film is an amazing experience that Kaplan’s skill and creative invention worked to uplift.

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Lemaire Fall/Winter 2015

And there is one special moment where the story, character, and costume come together with such utterly thrilling results. In a gesture, a glance, in the glint of the eye, in the worn but robust fibers of humbly woven cloth comes a fashion moment few films contain. It stirs you. It shakes you. You are truly moved. The depth and significance of this moment is as much about the clothing as it is Abram’s storytelling or the talent of the actor who pulled it off. It’s possible you will begin to see things differently. It may change your eye.

But it’s impossible to tell you what that moment is without spoiling it for those who have not yet seen the film. Those who have know exactly the moment I mean. Those who still need to go, I can tell you only this: the timing is perfect.

Hermès, 2011

For its Fall/Winter 2011 women’s wear collection Hermès turned its focus on archery and falconry, the most noble and aristocratic of European sports and simultaneously just as integral to the life and lore of the  Eurasian Steppe. And should your imagination take you there, it summons the scene of a Mongol warlord, circa 1220, decked in his furs and leather, charging ahead on his conquest, riding on an orange saddle. In another life; an elegant comtesse, circa 1930, traveling on the Trans-Siberian railway, making her way through Irkutsk, on to Ulan Bator, before her final stop in Beijing—oh the splendors she should discover and bring back. It’s a fantasy, really, but one the house’s new women’s wear director Christophe Lemaire has so intricately illustrated. Lemaire has made it a part of his method to scan, synthesize, and, when appropriate, surrender to the bounty the world has to offer. And at Hermès he has found a home for which his travels can persist with no boundaries. Is there really that much of a contradiction within his proposition? In this truly global world, in one with no acknowledgment of its past strife, with no consideration of its future tolls, Lemaire’s Hermès proposes that there isn’t.

Lacoste, 2009

While Lemaire brought a definite and compelling sense of classically French cool to Lacoste during the whole decade he helmed it, there did a come a point of contamination; a threshold that was crossed where the Lacoste universe he had brilliantly developed would be subverted by another, one that Lemaire had also carefully constructed, but one far more esoteric and ultimately demanding. The two worlds intermingling—the Lacoste sportswear tradition and Lemaire’s own anachronistic, cross-cultural, otherworldly notions converging—it would speak to the unclimbed conceptual heights the brand could be taken to and Lemaire’s own extraordinary powers of interpretation and transmutation.

Alternatives, 2012

The Men’s Dress Reform Party, London, 1937

One of the many factions advocating radical change in conventional Western dress in the early 20th century, the Men’s Dress Reform Party pursued a softer, easier look based on comfort and aesthetic principle. Soft collars, shorts,  breeches, and even sandals were prized for their sartorial freedom and their parallel political reflections.

Raincoat designed by Issey Miyake, modeled by Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura

Miyake found no discrepancy between East and West, believing that the two could combine into an amalgam of a modern world. In his design of a raincoat the binary of traditional Japanese clothes making and modern technology only compliment each other.

Yohji Yamamoto, circa 1984

Yamamoto utilized his native dress  with no less fervor bringing essentially Japanese shapes and forms to fashionable attention, facing head-on world dominating Western dress. While it would not reshape the modern wardrobe it would help put it into perspective and offer at least one divergent direction forward.

Giorgio Armani, 1990

Armani’s relaxed attitude, burgeoning into ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took its inspiration from dress of the Middle East and Asia. A softer silhouette, still in cahoots with the oversized masculinity of its time, was sensual and seductive.

Raf Simons, 2005

Simons’s fall 2005 collection was an anathema to men’s fashion of its time. Sending out street casted boys in oversized silhouettes, owing as much to 1980’s Yamamoto as it does  the decades’ science fiction narratives ala Blade Runner and Brazil, the show struck a note that would vibrate much longer than a single season.

The spring 2012 men’s wear collections from Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, Issey Miyake, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, and Lanvin.

The Spring 2012 men’s wear collections in Milan and Paris are not so easily defined through rock‘n’roll, iconic heritage, or some kind of vague sartorialism – the usual language that gets bandied around from season to season to describe men’s fashion. The collections this time had a lot more to them. Trying to clearly express what it is, what these clothes really are, is much trickier, muddled in their ambiguity and contradictions; at once soft and strict, synthetic and natural, ancient and modern. There are no easy references to rely on but there is a means forward.

Christophe Lemaire, 2011

Christophe Lemaire Spring/Summer 2011*

Lacoste Spring/Summer 2011

When it was announced that Christophe Lemaire was to succeed Jean Paul Gaultier at Hermes the reaction was met with a confusion the belies the lack of attention that can sometimes be paid amidst fashion hype. The veteran designer’s appointment was scoffed at due to his work with Lacoste, immediately dismissing him as a polo shirt designer. Actually, Lemaire’s work at Lacoste has been profound though quiet; demonstrating the ability to elevate what could possibly be one of the most banal yet recognized sportswear brands into something directional and relevant. In the ten years that Lemaire has been at the helm he has shown the fullest potential of the brand, reimagining it in his own utopian vision with tinges of Andre Courreges, Kenzo Takada, and Oliviero Toscani. When Lemaire did look to the brand’s heritage he did so with a studied understanding of its inherent modernism, extracting an essence that went far beyond commercial prerogatives.

But it probably wasn’t his ability to sync up a conservative French brand known for mundane sportswear with a relevant contemporary mood that got him the new job; it was probably the work Lemaire has been designing under his own name for the past 20 years. Lemaire has taken a quiet yet no less directional approach to fashion, leaning away from trend cycles and any other fashion discourse, instead pursuing something entirely unique. He’s not a designer that will be inspired by an ostentatious theme; rather he seems to be more interested in how people actually live and designing ways to improve it. Lemaire is genuinely interested in classicism, creating clothes that will not age, and if they do, they will age gracefully. And his clothes are universal, defying any specific cultural attachment or generation, so non-referential that they seem to be cleansing in taste if not in spirit. All this considered, it is clear that Lemaire’s position at Hermes marks a new direction for the esteemed house and for luxury in general. Where exactly will it go? We’ll find out soon enough.

*Since posting I learned that the host of this website does not allow the video to be played due to audio copyrights. Please view the video in youtube.com. My apologies. -Jeremy