Two houses that dress the extremely well-heeled, Hermès and Elie Saab, showed on Saturday; the first designed for discretion, the latter to dazzle.

Hermès: Monochromatic mode

It all began with Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski thinking about hair, from her own flame red locks to Venetian blondes to black and auburn, before turning the latest collection for Hermès into an autumnal-hued symphony.

Hermes – Fall-Winter2023 – 2024 – Womenswear – France – Paris – © ImaxTree

The relative novelty of the motivation leading to an agreeably unexpected vision of fashion. That said, it was an overwhelmingly monochromatic event. From the show space itself, a completely orange box (how unlike a collection for Hermès!) to the color conformity of every look.
A collection that looked ideal for a long walk in a forest, as much as a shopping expedition by a grand dame. 

Vanhee-Cybulski’s best ideas were for evening – riffing on 1920’s designer like Madame Grès or Madeleine Vionnet, and their fondness for plissé fabrics and Grecian goddess silhouettes. All Nadège’s ideas, however, were made in metallic silk. They were brilliantly cut, finished with contrasting mat or marbleized silk shoulders, and worn by several Black models who walked with considerable grace.
Occasionally, the draping even imitated how women twist and pull their hair. Her opening was all in russet, mud, oak, elm and deep purple; with ribbed cashmere tunics, soft cashmere redingotes, classy knit dresses with Jesuitical sleeves, or elongated violet cardigans. Cable knits even imitated braided hair – for pretty post pandemic polish.
Hermès being a house born by making saddles, there were some novel shearlings made to look like wild fur, used in parkas and swing coats; or several gleaming leather shirts and tunics, so precise they looked ironed onto the models.
All anchored by one boot – albeit a great one – a taught suede thigh boot with pyramid heel, that will be a best-seller. For best-sellers of the most expensive sort is what Hermès is all about. The house’s most recent figures for 2022 showed that revenues grew 29% to 11.6 billion euros, net profits by 38% to 3.4 billion euros.
“I wanted to play with the complexity and symbolism of women’s hair. Something so trivial, but yet so structural. So I sent hair to several different fabric mills to replicate the complexity of the fiber in all the cashmere,” revealed Vanhee-Cybulski, in a post-show chat.
Her overall goal, reimagining the stereotypes of a wardrobe – like a blanket coat, but making it in knitwear that comes and wraps around you.
“I liked the solidity of mono-color. This collection felt more introverted. But you always want to get wrapped up in winter. My other idea about copper, as it is so malleable yet strong,” explained the bright red-haired designer, who took her extended bow in a black leather jacket, contrasted by bright red boots, which made her look younger in attitude than her cast. And very unlike her own show. 
Hermès will always be old money, but you don’t want to have money make you look old.

Elie Saab: Fun in a busy moment for Elie

A significant change of gears at Elie Saab, with an array of new tailoring tricks and a shower of flowery sequins, in a show staged with gusto inside the Palais de Tokyo.

Elie Saab – Fall-Winter2023 – 2024 – Womenswear – France – Paris – © ImaxTree

It’s a busy moment for the house of Saab. On Monday, Elie will stage a mega fete to launch his new perfume Elixir in La Suite Girafe, the rooftop luxury bar of Trocadero with exceptional views of the Eiffel Tower.
Later in the week, Saab flies to Milan to open a major new boutique on via Gesù, opposite the Four Seasons Hotel, and down the street from Versace headquarters.
There was a tiny bit of Versace in this show, not as a lift, but in the choice of naughty black lace, gleaming glitter and strictly cut suits.
But above all, this felt like a fresh simmering Saab with excellent black puffers, blazers and chiffon cocktails speckled with Levantine flowers and worn with thigh boots. Even his lovely wife Claudine showed up on Instagram in the thigh-high boots.
“What was I thinking when I was designing this collection? A beautiful woman,” smiled Saab, after being embraced by Olivia Palermo, leading a posse of influencers that included Caro Daur and Helena Bordon. Not low rent ladies exactly.
But, in contrast to Hermès, Elie likes finance to be used to have a little fun;

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