French designer Christophe Lemaire is poised to take the reins at Hermès this fall, heading up the women's ready-to-wear collection. The fashion veteran has designed his own men's and women's RTW label since 1991, which he is presenting with his first runway show in seven years today in Paris. Still, to this point, Lemaire has been most closely identified with the revival of Lacoste, a brand he helmed from 2000 to present. "I'm really proud of doing that in a coherent way and being very respectful of the DNA of the brand," he says. "That's the only way, of course: You have to put yourself at the service of an existing heritage."
The opinionated designer has a clear vision for what he sees as the future of fashion: a return to elegance, simplicity, quality, and classicism. "You don't have to change your wardrobe every six months. You don't have to buy the latest high-fashion brand bag. That's a very superficial vision of elegance," he says. "I very much believe that elegance is linked to dignity." As he prepared for his show, we talked to Lemaire about his Lacoste legacy, the overexposure of rock-and-roll style, and why he calls Purple "a joke."
Was it a difficult decision to leave Lacoste?
Yes and no. I was extremely happy to be offered the position at Hermès. It's definitely a kind of dream, and it's very coherent with my personal vision on fashion. I've always been interested in simplicity and timeless style more than fashion.
How do look back on your time at Lacoste?
I'm most proud of having refreshed the image of Lacoste, gearing it toward a younger and more fashion-forward audience. I'm deeply convinced that Lacoste has a unique position: It's not a common sportswear brand, nor a real fashion brand. I think I expressed that pretty well in the fashion shows, though there is still a challenge to express that in the shops and in distribution.
What's your vision for Hermès?
The winter collection will be shown in March. I'm not supposed to talk about that yet, since we feel it's a bit early. But I'll have something more concrete to show at the end of the year.
What made you decide to show the Christophe Lemaire collection on the runway again?
A lot of people have associated me too quickly with my younger work and what I used to do with Lacoste. My own collection has evolved a lot in the past two or three years. It was a good time to clarify the silhouette and positioning.
What kind of person wears your designs?
People who are into style more than fashion. I offer essential pieces you can play with and make up your own specific uniform.
What appeals to you about uniform dressing?
I really hate this idea that you have to change your wardrobe every six months – that's bullshit. At the end of the day, you have to find your own style vocabulary.
How would you describe your personal style?
I mix traditional clothes inspired by China, Japan, and India with Western workwear.
What trends are you appreciating right now?
I'm happy to see that we've come back to a certain common sense: real quality, timelessness, simplicity, and classicism in the good sense of the term. Until very recently, high-fashion women were like luxury prostitutes. Now there is a need for a more authentic and dignified style.
Any trends you're ready to see retired?
I'm tired of the trends going from boho chic to rock and roll, boho chic to rock and roll, then hippie chic to punk chic ... I love music, but I'm just tired of this superficial rock-and-roll thing in fashion. I think being transgressive today is being classical. To pretend to dress as a punk and take cocaine and have sex orgies has just become common now — there's nothing transgressive about that. The fashion pages, like Purple magazine, are just a joke.
It's just very artificial. They pretend to rebel and revolt when really they are a victim of the system more than anyone.
What's one item you're saving to buy?
A classic leather Hermès key holder.
What should every man have in his closet?
A good pair of shoes that makes you feel comfortable and handsome.
What's something you never leave the house without?
A pair of Chinese slippers for summer and leather shearling-lined ankle boots for winter.