In 1949, people going into a casino in Cannes would come in to the Hermes boutique nearby asking for ties because they could not enter the casino without one. The director of the store, Bobby Breward, told the company they should make ties, and Hermes took note. In an age when there are no such compulsions to wear ties anymore, Christophe Goineau, creative director of Men’s Silk at Hermes, who has been designing ties for the brand for 30 years, talks about the role of ties in a man’s wardrobe today, and how millennials are adapting them to their own style. Edited excerpts from an interview: Q. How have men’s silk/ties changed and evolved in the 30 years you have been at Hermes? The way men are buying and looking at their outfits is changing quite a bit. They know the collection, the trends, they enjoy shopping, which makes a big difference compared to many years ago when it was more an obligation [to wear a tie]. Now it’s more about pleasure, they are not in uniform anymore, and that makes a big change because they are looking for more specific things, for something that suits their feelings, or is close to their hobby. They are much more individual, and want something that talks about them.
Q. Is this change across all age groups? Now we have a younger generation buying ties because the older generation is not wearing them anymore. They are trying to be different, and are looking for something specific, as compared to their bosses or fathers who bought ties because they had to. If you had asked me about ties 10 years ago, I would not be so optimistic because then we were saying, ‘Okay, people are buying fewer and fewer ties’. But today I am quite optimistic because they are still important pieces of the wardrobe, still in the middle of the silhouette. When you are wearing a shirt it’s nice to have a tie, it is still something very elegant.
Q. Where and how do scarves fit in the picture? So there is an aesthetic thing and a functional thing, of protecting me from cold. I think it brings colour to men’s outfits. We are pretty much always in grey, dark navy, black, etc, we are not yet into yellow, bright blue or pink, so it brings colour.
Q. Hermes scarf designs have been put on vinyl record covers as part of the touring Silk Mix exhibition (a temporary installation inspired by a vinyl record store). How did that come about? For many years Véronique Nichanian [artistic director of the Hermes men’s universe] and I have been making scarves, and we kept saying they could be beautiful sleeves for records. So we talked about it, saying let’s do it, but we didn’t. Until one day we did. We took the last eight years’ collections, put each design on a record sleeve and tried to find music from the runway show, matched it to the music from the year of the collection. It wasn’t about launching a new product, it was about a free gift of emotion, a meeting point with our customer. Because music has this power to remind you of things, when you listen to something from 10 years ago, you think, ‘Ah yes, I was there’.