The serene white offices nestled above the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris’ 8th arrondissement hum with the steady work of Hermès’ highly skilled teams designing everything from perfume to their signature silk scarves. It is a house of immense prestige, but even the loftiest of French brands with such probing media coverage can count unsung geniuses among their ranks. Véronique Nichanian is one of them.
Nichanian is truly an anomaly among designers. Despite the luxury sector’s focus on women, it is an industry headed by men at nearly every turn. Although few outside fashion know her name, Nichanian has carved a path as a respected creative director with the ability to conjure impeccable feats with apparent ease. Even more incredible than the strength of her talent is the fact that in her more than thirty-year career, she has designed exclusively for men. And she is one of the world’s only women in her strata able to say as much.
Though Hermès’ womenswear has seen many esteemed designers join and subsequently leave its employ (Martin Margiela, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christophe Lemaire), Nichanian has been at the helm of the men’s division since she was hired by Jean-Louis Dumas in 1988. Whether it’s her immaculately tailored gray flannel suits or a t-shirt made from paper-thin crocodile, she somehow generates clothes that refuse to date, yet appear astoundingly fresh years after their introduction without so much as a hint of stodginess. She does not shift radically from season to season nor rely on gimmicks and flash-in-the-pan ideas, but rather evolves slowly listening to her customers (and husband) to learn what men really want. It is a habit that has served her well as she led the company through the explosion of the menswear market over the past decade.
When it comes to her philosophy, she said it best when she told Business of Fashion in 2015, “Confronting materials, revisiting styles and inviting artists to bring their spark, such is my definition of modern luxury.” And lovers of her subdued brilliance the world over couldn’t be more grateful.
written by Martin Lerma