To present its autumn/winter women’s RTW collection for 2021, Hermès danced across the world, from New York to Paris to Shanghai

And in my first in-person fashion event since March 2020, we danced from Manila, at the Conservatory of the Peninsula Manila at 9:30 p.m., to New York, at the Armory at 8:30 a.m., to Paris, the Garde Républicaine at 2:30 p.m., to Shanghai, at the Hermes Maison at 9:50 p.m., and back again.

The show was the first of its kind, a direct response to all that’s going on and all that has changed as a result of the pandemic. The raison d’etre is the autumn-winter 2021 women’s prêt-à-porter collection at Hermès, but the way the collection was presented is beyond fashion, a living performance in three acts—New York, Paris, and Shanghai (We were only an audience in Manila, though we danced along and traveled just as freely across space and time.)

Prologued in New York by Los Angeles-born artist and choreographer Madeline Hollander’s interpretation of movements gleaned from the AW 2021 RTW collection and capped off in Shanghai by the haunting work of dancers under the direction of Beijing-based powerhouse choreographer Gu Jiani, the show, a triptych, at its heart, as it unfolded in Paris, was a showcase of fashion designer and Hermès International creative director Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski’s collection, paraded in expressive movement, in a play of fabrics and pleats and cuts and drapes, in the intermingling of cultures.

In the collection, even time takes a backseat. Everything can be worn day or night, whenever the mood strikes. Opposites co-exist or even come together. Rules even of tailoring are relaxed, so a suit is cut parka-style. There are cycling pants and padded anoraks, along with long jackets, coats, and ponchos with scarves integrated with them. Protection, the ability to move, freedom are stitched into every piece of the collection, as if to say, “Enough of this rut.”

That was the point of the triptych, three different, independently produced shows in one, held in three different places in the world, a world we are discouraged from seeing at the moment.

“It is interesting to see what Madeline (the choreographer who did the New York sequence) does with an article of clothing,” says Nadège. “For her, it is not a piece of clothing on a body, but movement renewed. I am interested in the relationship between clothes, bodies, and attitudes. These are the things I think of when I begin designing a new collection.”

Of Gu Jiani’s work (the Shanghai sequence), the Hermès creative director says, “It is a pleasure to see my own language interpreted in a form I am unfamiliar with, and which inspires me. It is an incredible privilege—and even more so now—to be able to show one’s work to and share it with someone from an entirely different background. I must say it shook up my work habits.”

For me, risk-taking is the very definition of experimentation. We are all caught up in a moment of reflection about what we can do better, and differently. We need to rethink certain things positively; if not, all the questioning linked to the pandemic will have been fruitless. We can and must welcome different sensibilities into our own work. —Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski

Personally, I love it that Hermès does not refuse to acknowledge the current state of affairs in the world. Instead, it chooses to face it, if not with defiance, then with grace and with hope.

“We are living in singular times, and are faced with singular creative challenges,” explains Nadège. “The moment we are currently experiencing is important because it is changing everything we think we know. We are rethinking our connection to other people. We have an increasingly local focus, which is both constraining as well as a wonderful opportunity… Would we have created this new vocabulary, these socially distanced collaborations if things had been calmer, more normal? Probably not. We would have undoubtedly produced a more traditional show. We want to comprehend the moment and invent new ways of working together.”

Even under these Covid circumstances, the show goes on, and no concept or style is compromised. The dance, choreographed with breathtaking synchronicity, each sequence a personal, intimate approach to the universal challenges of our time, spanned great distances on the planet but it might have all unfolded in just three rooms next to one another, a reminder that, across many cultures, across a world of differences in colors and textures, in pleats and frills and lines, in leather or denim or a multiplicity of fabrics designed to protect as well as set the body free, we are all in this together and, together, we can dance on.

Source: Manila Bulletin (