'Silk Mix' Installation Showcases Hermès' Take On Style And Music

By Adam Baidawi
10 March 2019
Hermes, Christophe Goineau
Hermès has built a silk empire with a laser-focussed mantra: no limits

Nobody needs silk. Of course not: a fabric, however pretty or stylish or – as some houses like to dub them – noble, aren’t necessities at all. But they are worthy luxuries. We could wax lyrical about silk’s centuries-old connection to royalty and nobility and towering figures of eras past, but there’s little need for that. This all comes down to a single, inescapable truth: silk is an awfully nice thing to have in our wardrobe.

One man who can advocate for this is Christophe Goineau, the man at the helm of silk at perhaps the maison most revered for silk objects, Hermès. He’s been there for more than three decades.

Christophe Goineau

“I enjoy real freedom in my work and the way we are developing the men’s silk collections,” he says.

Goineau is sitting on a handsome couch in a handsome corner of the rather chic Hermès HQ in Paris’ 8th. It’s January. Outside the building, the city is flirting with snow. Inside, there’s a discreet mania unfolding, with the maison’s fall/winter show a few days out. Goineau is wearing leather sneakers at the end of crisp denim, and a simple sweater accessorised by, of course, a silk scarf.

“The feel: we can talk about that first,” says Goineau. “At first, silk can feel quite cold, but it immediately takes your temperature. When you wear silk close to your skin, it’s something quite pleasant.”

Goineau oversees men’s silk at Hermès, a role separate and complementary to that of the legendary menswear designer Véronique Nichanian – another talent who’s completed 30 years at the maison.

And here’s the thing: you might assume that a brand with such heritage, helmed by designers like Goineau and Nichanian – who haven’t played career musical chairs for decades – might find itself a click or two away from fashion’s zeitgeist. But the years have only honed their focus; brought them closer to precisely what stylish men everywhere want: style, luxury, and maybe a shot of flair. That sartorial mix is totally epitomised by the brand’s silk offerings, all colour punch and playful graphic, woven together with a healthy dose of elegance.

“Silk is a very interesting material: you can weave it, you can print on it, and you can knit it. You can use so many techniques,” says Goineau.

Goineau began his Hermès tenure working on ties. And, for however much the tie may have cooled-off in this vibe-y, casualised moment of menswear, Goineau continues to see only potential.

“I’m quite optimistic about the future of the tie,” he says. “It is still something you can wear in the middle of your shirt – it adds a touch of colour and a touch of elegance.”

But what about the choose-your-own-look era of office style? An age where an office uniform can be considered too stiff, too predictable?

“In the past, people were obliged to wear a tie at work for instance. Today, wearing a tie is more about pleasure. I see quite young customers today – 20 to 25 – wearing ties. They see the ties completely differently. They don’t consider it as an obligation, or something connected with rules. They see the tie as an accessory. Like a watch or scarf. Today, they want to enjoy the way they wear their ties. They know the collections, they know what suits their feeling, their mood, their hobbies. They want something to express their personality. It’s connected to what you want, not to what you need.”

When it comes to tipping the scales toward ‘want’ – from necessities to covetable desires – an Hermès silk scarf makes for a perfect proposition. Yes, the idea of a scarf that’s more about form than function can still be a tricky proposition for a man less sartorially adventurous. But Goineau, of course, can guide the way. 

“Sometimes when you give a man a square, he has to learn how to wear it, how to tie it and how to fold it,” he says.

For those looking to dip their toes into the sartorially elevated waters of silk scarves, he vouches for the rule of elimination.

“Men are sometimes not sure about what they like but they know what they don’t like. Therefore, you can say, ‘I never wear red’ and remove the red. Say, ‘I don’t like big patterns’ and remove the big patterns.”

While a silk scarf mightn’t seem it at first, it can be a practical style move – something that can adapt to the sartorial twists, turns and demands a day can present you. 

“You can wear a tie in the morning, and when it’s 6 o’clock for drinks, you can choose to remove your tie... The scarf, you can wear, remove, fold, rewear – it’s very connected to the way we dress and the way we live today. More and more, we are moving in the direction of comfort. I think it is important for accessories to feel nice and also be easy to wear, quite lightweight…” he pauses, playing with his scarf and searching for the right words. “Something effortless.”  

Hermès hosts Silk Mix, an installation that celebrates style and music, from 12pm-8pm, March 11-16 at Gate Village 8, DIFC