Hermes delivers a masterclass in dressing for a ‘rich man summer’

The Hermes spring/summer menswear show
'Just the freshest clothes you can imagine, that any sophisticated man would want to wear': The Hermes spring/summer menswear show - Johanna Geron

What defines “rich” dressing today? There are several camps; firstly, wealth denoted by Mall of the Emirates-style label mania, or the “soft luxury” approach – all tactile cashmeres and delicious cafe-au-lait tones, as defined by the characters in Succession. This, it should be noted, is entirely separate from “old money” style, but it’s notable that Véronique Nichanian, menswear designer at Hermes, has over the course of an astonishing 35 years managed to firmly and precisely create a form of luxury dressing which can’t ever being categorised. No gauche labels, no catering to certain markets one minute and others the next, but subtle design cues that quietly say Hermes without having to shout it across the arrondissement rooftops.

At the Hermes menswear show in Paris on Saturday, her approach to dressing stands out so much amid the spring/summer 25 men’s shows precisely because of what’s absent: no over-egged “themes”, no star collaborations, no noise. Just the freshest clothes you can imagine, that any sophisticated man would want to wear.

The show was 'a masterclass in how many men actually want to dress'
The show was 'a masterclass in how many men actually want to dress'

That doesn’t mean formal; Nichanian’s approach is as easy, fresh and as fluid as the sip of a citron presse on a sweltering French afternoon (which it was). Blousons, flyaway parkas, soft structure trousers, sandals – coincidentally, the chicest leather sandals you ever did see – and a fluttering of silk in the form of shirts or a trailing scarf with a beguiling print wending its way across it.

None of this is particularly groundbreaking, but it’s a decisive and clear point of view that’s consistent, and a masterclass in how many men actually want to dress. Hermes is arguably the greatest luxury house there is – it’s certainly the oldest – and it’s learned a few things along the way about what the elite want from their clothes.

Nichanian's approach is all about soft-structure trousers and chic sandals
Nichanian's approach is all about soft-structure trousers and chic sandals - Johanna Geron

The CEO or tech magnate who shops in Hermes likely needs a suit, which he’ll find in store, but that’s not what Nichanian offers on her kind of catwalk; instead it’s about lightness and modernity and a (super exclusive) take on summer dressing. It’s simple things, done very, very well; the perfect French chore jacket, an easy shirt (with a jaunty necktie), a tidy bomber jacket in petal-fine leather. Those shirts, and some of the worker jackets, were actually suede, rendered so light that they looked like cotton. The only concession to a hint of catwalk theatrics was in the metallic shimmer on parkas, and an equestrian print across silk tops and shirts, which carried into a fake tattoo motif on the models.

Parkas with a metallic shimmer added a touch of theatrics to the show
Parkas with a metallic shimmer added a touch of theatrics to the show - Johanna Geron

There’s so much debate about the luxury goods markets today, with brands clamouring to redefine what that means for them and – more often than not – replicate the magic that Hermes has conjured. The house’s profits leapt 17 per cent in the first quarter in 2024, demand fuelled by its famous exclusivity and the mystery surrounding how exactly you nab the Birkin bag of your dreams, after two shoppers in California sued the house for refusing to sell them bags.

That’s the tension between its offering; deliciously, invitingly wearable, but only if you’ve got the funds and the connections to buy it. The house’s men’s collection in Paris was nothing to frighten those stately Hermes horses – equestrianism being a signature of the brand – and that’s entirely the point; instead it was just about pure excellence in making exceptional clothes.