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Vanhee-Cybulski to replace Lemaire at Hermes

Published on Thursday, 31 Jul 2014
Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, the new artistic director of women''s ready-to-wear at Hermès. (Inez et Vinoodh/Inez et Vinoodh)

Softly spoken French designer Christophe Lemaire has parted ways with powerhouse luxury label Hermes after four years. He will take his last bow in Paris at the close of the womenswear shows for spring-summer 2015 in October before focusing on his own label. 

At the end of last week, 36-year-old Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski was named as his successor as artistic director. With past stints at Celine and Maison Martin Margiela, the designer has plenty of kudos in the high fashion world. Her most recent role was design director at The Row, the luxury fashion label founded by twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, where she produced impressively cool, crisp yet fashion-forward collections that appealed to the modern woman. Working with Phoebe Philo at Celine has clearly had a positive influence on her work. And all eyes will be on the catwalk for her debut autumn-winter 2015 collection next year. 

The role of artistic director for Hermes' womenswear ready-to-wear range is obviously a coveted one. Lemaire reinforced the brand's effortless, quietly confident and uber luxe core with exotic references taken from his travels. It will be interesting to see in what direction Vanhee-Cybulski takes the women's fashion division of the heritage house. 

Her last autumn-winter collection for The Row featured oversized, purist separates. The clean lines and muted colours evoked the quiet confidence of a sophisticated woman. And Hermes is certainly about sophistication. Vanhee-Cybulski is well-versed in that most sought after French intellectual chic befitting the brand.

There are certain similarities between Lemaire and Vanhee-Cybulski. Both are native French with prestigious French fashion house pedigrees, Lemaire having worked for Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent before his role headlining Lacoste and then womenswear at Hermes. Both designers focus heavily on functionality and fit in their styles, although Vanhee-Cybulski has an arguably more modern style and silhouette. 

One main point of difference is that Vanhee-Cybulski won't have to juggle Hermes with another label. Lemaire is leaving Hermes to focus on his own eponymous brand. And although Hermes and Louis Vuitton are very different beasts, one can't help but draw parallels from Marc Jacobs leaving Vuitton last year to do the same. 

Is there a growing sense of fatigue among designers who juggle their own brands along with high-profile heritage houses? Even at Hermes, perhaps one of the most humanistic houses in Europe, the pressure of balancing may have been too much. 

So tellingly, Hermes chief executive officer Axel Dumas says in the press announcement of Vanhee-Cybulski's appointment: "We welcome the arrival of Nadege. Her talent and her creative track record will be great assets in the continued development of women's ready-to-wear. She will devote herself full time to our house."

Jing Zhang Jing.zhang@scmp.com

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