Paris has suffered a lot of late. It's a dark time for the city, nay a dark time for the world as a whole. That seems to have informed the whole season - designers are feeling subdued, reflective, despondent even. So there was something touching about watching the Hermes show with the sparkling Eiffel Tower proudly on view in the background through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows. One couldn't tell if it was appropriate to feel roused and buoyant or ruminative. But those dual emotions were appropriate. Véronique Nichanian's collection was a story of combinations and clashes. This wasn't so much a styling mix of smart and casual we've become so used to seeing - suits with trainers or any of the expected manifestations - as a true hybrid of high and low. Different spectrums and styles of dressing seem to mix and combine before the eyes, so a knit grew pinstripe sleeves, while a sheepskin jacket became one with a Fair Isle cardigan. The sense of an ever-changing, ever-developing wardrobe was summarised best by look 10, an all-in-one suit worn with the top half knotted casually around the waist, just as one would wear a humble piece of workwear like dungarees or a boiler-suit. It was a play on occasion and context, a sign that smart can easily be made casual and casual can just as quickly be made smart. That irreverent attitude came through in the way the staples of menswear - the most causal cornerstones of a wardrobe, joggers and sweatshirts - were rendered in the most luxurious finishes, not just cashmere, but mink and crocodile.
All those unexpected matches and pairings made this collection sound confused. In a way it was, but concisely, subtly and deliberately. It spoke of a man unsure of his position in the world and unsure of his style - unable to decide if he wants to dress up or down and what garb is appropriate for the day. That doesn't mean this collection was in any way lacking or poorly edited, more that its strength came in the way it accepted the many mishmashes, clashes and hybrids that are becoming common place in menswear, even at the very upper echelons of the luxury market. Nichanian responds to rather than tries to combat or tweak taste. She knows men are embracing comfort more and more so. She took the confusion that exists in menswear and made a collection to help stem it. Lightness, out of the dark, just like that iconic sparkling Tower.