In the 2009 documentary Bill Cunningham New York (a must-watch for any fashion lover), the beloved photographer utters a line which has been re-quoted ad-infinitum since: “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life”. Hermès creative director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski was inspired by a similar sentiment when she set about designing the brand’s Fall 2021 collection, revealing she wanted to create clothes that are a “second skin” to “protect” the body.
“It’s urgent now to live again,” she said in a post-show interview. “The message to the world is that I have this conviction of designing clothes for a confident woman. It was about resilience.” The message was, indeed, global in its reach. In an ambitious feat, Vanhee-Cybulski unveiled the new collection across three continents concurrently, sandwiching the traditional runway show (which took place in Paris), with dance performances by Madeline Hollander in New York, and Gu Jiani in Shanghai.
The clothes were a textbook case of Hermès’ unparalleled sophistication. Chocolate leather trousers, perfectly-cut coats (cinched at the waist with Hermès leather belts), silk mid-length day dresses in timeless blush pink and cream. The first four looks were head-to-toe denim—equestrian-style cropped jackets, flattering high-rise jeans, and a leather-panelled dress, all made in dark indigo denim with chic contrast stitching.
The soundtrack mixed the heavy beat of techno synth with the orchestral tones of harps and violins, an aural embodiment of the blending of classicism and modernity that Vanhee-Cybulski delivers season after season. Nowhere was this blending of old and new more evident than in the accessories. Models wore leather-bound lipstick holders around the neck (all the better for housing the brand’s culty new makeup line in); and held onto ‘Hermèsway’ leather phone cases, complete with a built-in Airpods holder.
Elsewhere, AW21 debuted two updates on the brand’s iconic ‘Birkin’ shape. The first, the ‘Birkin pochette’, reimagines the style in a flat, minimal pouch. The second—the 3-in-1—houses three smaller bags within the classic 22-inch shape. Cue: inevitable handbag-related hysteria.
The fashion industry is currently experiencing a cultural moment that demands near-constant innovation. That can be a challenge for heritage brands like Hermès, whose power lies in their timeless consistency. But Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has proved herself more than up to the task—deftly blending classic, elegant clothing with a ground-breaking digital fashion show. Future classic, indeed.