In the rarefied world of luxury, Hermès stands as a beacon of timeless elegance and impeccable craftsmanship. While the brand is perhaps best known for its legendary handbags, starting with the Haut à Courroies bag in 1900, right down to the Birkin, the Kelly, and the Constance, to name but a few which have become household names, it’s all the other products it sells that allows for Hermès to be consistently ranked as the world’s most valuable luxury brand in retail studies. 

Any Hermès store is a veritable universe of products that define what luxury means today. From horse saddles, to fine bone china by Puiforcat, to fine silk scarves from Lyon; there are John Lobb oxfords, and plaited leather espadrilles; there are gigantic cashmere pillows and picnic stools; there are tender baby’s booties, poetic Nautilus pens, and dog collars; there are penguin motif ties, and saddle-stitched calfskin trays; there are Saint Louis crystal vases and enamel bangles made in Vienna, and Vietnamese lacquered water buffalo horn accessories. Each thing is flawlessly made, and is its own platonic ideal.

The Plume in Swift leather. Photo: Gaspar Ruiz Lindberg/Courtesy of Hermès

Without understanding the craft of making something enduringly useful, with the most noble of materials, and giving it life and the magic of the human touch, we can have no inkling as to how to approach their womenswear. For its ready-to-wear collections bear all the hallmarks of this Hermès ethos—less fashion than it is clothing made with integrity, dignity and utmost craft, balanced with the romance and poetry of the human touch, and the sensuality of some of the most sumptuous fabrics money can’t buy. Hermès’s brand philosophy, according to former CEO Jean-Louis Dumas: “We don’t have a policy of image, we have a policy of product.”

The clothes presented for the house’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection are a case in point of this restrained and thoughtful approach: these are clothes, not clickbait fashion. Designed to protect and to cover—the basic function of all clothing—the classic coats, bolero-style crop tops, and apron dresses were rendered as anything but basic in ruby-red lambskin perforated with geometric motifs; curvy dresses, racy bandeaus, halter tops and sweaters that look anything but wanton in the clearest of claret red silk knits; the quietly rich colours—burgundy, taupe, black, vibrant red and brown—are earthy and sensual, and reference the eternity of nature without being pedantic. These colours will be familiar and reassuring if you’ve ever put down an order for any of the handbags wishlist—seasoned shoppers would know their names: Rouge H, Étoupe, Opera Red. 

The silhouettes are both rigorously precise yet relaxed (but never slouchy, or quelle horreur, shouty). For instance, in the billow of a coat, or flutter of some wide-legged pants, which are supported by a high-belted waist or a firm shoulder, and never expand into the exaggerated volumes of this season. The athletic collection, which featured sculptural separates, and a body-aware shapeliness revels in the sensuality of skin exposed, with bare shoulder, waist, and legs without ever descending into undignified display.

Hermès is in the details, and, as with any of its precious objects, artisanship is everything.

“They are made to protect but not to hide, to envelop but not to hinder. To trace your movements like a second skin, whether you’re wandering, whirling, or daydreaming,” the Spring/Summer 2024 show notes read. “They form a contour along the shoulder line and sharpen the waist. Uncovering you without exposing you, they invite the daylight to settle upon a bare shoulder, a hint of shoulder blade, a reimagined neckline. They follow your sensibilities, your inclinations, your desires.”

Photo: Filippo Fior/Courtesy of Hermès

Hermès is in the details, and, as with any of its precious objects, artisanship is everything. The precision of the leatherwork keeps everything intriguing, even in the most ethereal pieces, such as in a racer-back knitted top, with minute strips of lambskin creating neat ribs. In another masterful example, a slip-dress of lambskin is stitched together with embroidered ladder openwork as light as sunlight. Or, consider the long-sleeved bodysuit in ruby-red technical silk mesh knitted as finely as any lace, worn with an intricately embroidered cotton twill skirt. Each ensemble, as simple as it first appears, is the result of absolute mastery of its craft. 

All outfits were styled with an androgynous Greek sandal in silk ribbon and calfskin—some studded—giving the clothes a graceful ease as the models moved through the meticulously pruned wilderness of the Spring/Summer 2024 set. This focus on the wearable and the practical sets the collection apart, and in stark contrast to the clumping heavy shoes, or the concept heel shown in the majority of other labels. 

This collection represents the work of Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, who celebrates a decade at Hermès this year, having taken on the creative director role in 2014. Under Vanhee-Cybulski, the women’s ready-to-wear remained understated, luxurious and effortless, upholding the brand’s legacy while infusing movement, modernity and a female sensibility. Vanhee-Cybulski is French and before joining Hermès, she had designed at prestigious fashion houses, including Maison Martin Margiela, Phoebe Philo’s Céline, and The Row, from whence she developed her aesthetics.

The collection was made with the outdoors in mind, resulting in poncho-inspired trench coats, as well as cut-out leather tops and shorts that expose the skin to sunlight. Photo: Jack Day/Courtesy of Hermès

“For me, the lexicon of Hermès is best summed up as functionality. And beauty. And then there’s the mythology of the artisan or craftsman. I like the paradox: functionality at Hermès has a softness that comes from the way we explain what we do,” Vanhee-Cybulski told the Financial Times in an interview in 2021. 

Although Hermès isn’t in the avant-garde of fashion, it has a strong following of discerning fashion lovers around the world and is a go-to for impeccable clothes of quality, timeless elegance, and enduring appeal. And while the designers may change, and fashions shift over time, it is the product that endures: A celebration of beauty, craftsmanship, and the art of dressing perfectly.

This story originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of GRAZIA Singapore