Photo Shoot As Fashion Show

Hermès presented its men’s spring/summer 2021 in the lobby of a building during what appeared to be an image-making session



Hermès just live-streamed (2pm, Paris time) its spring/summer 2021 show. An on-location mise-en-scène that Hermes called “a live performance imagined with the artistic collaboration of Cyril Teste”, the French playwright and theatre (sometimes, film) director who is known for “filmic performances”. For the maker of the Birkin, this appears to be a behind-the-scene look at an Hermès photo shoot, which didn’t appear to be a fancy affair. The shoot itself looked like it was organised for a lookbook, rather than an ad campaign.

Designer Véronique Nichanian appeared in the film together with the director and his large crew. Social distancing was not evident. Ms Nichanian was dressing the models, appearing to be just making herself useful enough and to clap at the end when the filming wrapped up. The director made sure he was seen directing, his voice directorially loud, speaking in French, perhaps to ensure that the audience would know that they are working in France despite the un-Gallic setting, which is the atrium of a modern glass-and-steel building—it could be anyone of them in our CBD.


Hermès, like most brands of the Paris Fashion Week (PFW) calendar, is unable to stage a traditional runway show. This is their runway substitute, broadcasted surprisingly earlier than the schedule of 9—13 July, as stated by the regulatory body Fédération de la Haute Couture at de la Mode. Hermès is even earlier than Couture Week. It is possible that Hermès is no longer subscribing to the traditional schedule although four days earlier isn’t exactly dodging it either. In many aspects, this is not the usual Hermès presentation; this is filmic. In that respect, a good thing, as details on clothes such as the contrast white of the underside of a lapel can be revealed.

Given what the London Fashion Week shows turned out to be, this is significantly better, and may augur well for PFW. To be sure, it is unlikely that digital formats would replace a full runway show (even minus ridiculous sets). Watching a live stream of an actual fashion show was always considered to be a poor substitute. Watching a film of a brand’s idea of story-telling now seems to be that way too. A film like this by Hermès is really a teaser—tasting portion, rather whole meals; not even Beyond Burger when abstaining from meat. When the film ended, the inevitable question would be: Is that it?

20-07-05-23-55-27-724_decoVéronique Nichanian with Cyril Teste

We didn’t see a lot of clothes. There were 17 models, which presumably equalled 17 looks (18, according to Ms Nichanian’s message to the press)—just about a third of what Hermès showed in January for autumn/winter 2020. The models seemed bored, as they tend to be in a situation like that, waiting to be summoned to do whatever it was they had to do. One even asked to go to, perhaps, the toilet (he pointed to a place upstairs). Two were taking selfies. Another was listening to music via massive headphones, and as the camera moved closer, the soundtrack crossed over to reveal what the guy was hearing. The sample was too brief to allow us to know what it was, or to Shazam it.

There was a brief attempt at capturing what could be catwalking. Models ambled across the atrium, their rhythm broken by cameramen and equipment, so large in scale, you’d think they were filming a Palais Garnier opening night. This live performance ran for seven-plus minutes, the time it takes to wash our hair, and just three minutes or so shorter than an average Hermès runway show. Perhaps telling the story of the season is no longer crucial as fashion weeks go digital. A glimpse, as online moments go, is long enough. And the clothes? There’s always the pause button.

Screen Grab: Hermès film

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