“When I was a child, I said to my parents, ‘I want to be in the fashion business,’” Véronique Nichanian recalled in an interview with Manifesto, a Hong Kong-based fashion magazine. For over 27 years, the Parisian fashion designer has been designing clothing for French fashion label Hermès. Even before her tenure at Hermès, Nichanian excelled at fashion design. She’s not only been appointed to the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, but also defied convention as a woman exclusively designing menswear.
Nichanian grew up in Paris and became enthralled with fashion at an early age. She lived in a neighborhood that had several fabric stores and frequently bought a variety of fabric. Her love of the different textures, styles, and colors inspired her to pursue fashion design. Nichanian later studied women’s couture and graduated from École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a technical fashion and design school in Paris. Following her graduation, Nichanian was hired by Italian businessman and stylist Nino Cerruti to be his assistant. She began working with men’s fashion because she thought it would be an interesting short-term endeavor. However, she became so fascinated with designing menswear that she made it her profession. Nichanian worked at Cerruti for twelve years and co-managed the men’s collections. Following her tenure at Cerruti, she was hired by Jean-Louis Dumas, the late chairman and artistic director for Hermès, in 1988 to create men’s clothing and accessories for his struggling menswear line. In 2008, she became the deputy artistic director for the company’s menswear collection.
Throughout her entire career, Nichanian has been one of the few female fashion designers of menswear. Although Nichanian is one of the world’s most proficient designers, she’s also had to shatter the glass ceiling. “If there’s one question I get asked that really annoys me, it’s the one that suggests it’s a strange idea for a woman to be designing exclusively for men,” Nichanian explained to Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National. “It suggests there is something surprising in that, although nobody seems surprised by the number of male designers only designing womenswear. But it’s also a sign of how society and the fashion industry have moved on that I’m asked that less and less now.” While it’s still rare for a woman to design menswear, Nichanian’s expertise and passion for fashion are unparalleled in the fashion industry.
Unlike many fashion labels, Hermès’ menswear showcases subdued, yet impeccable designs. The array of skillfully tailored wool and cashmere suits, elegant scarves, and stylish ties create a sophisticated ensemble for fashionable gentlemen. Before she creates a new collection, Nichanian always gives consideration to fabrics and colors. Since Hermès is a luxury house, Nichanian has access to some of the most splendid and sought after fabrics. One of Hermès’ standout pieces is a navy two-button suit made of Prince de Galles (glen plaid) fabric. The suit’s consummate design boasts a notched collar, three mesh pockets, and a back slit. Its overall style embodies Nichanian’s aesthetic sensibilities and meticulous craftsmanship. Her raison d’etre is to make clothing that exudes a man’s savoir faire. “I like men’s mannerisms, the way they can be driven by refinement,” Nichanian told online fashion publication The Business of Fashion. “Non-ostentatious details are key to men’s allure whether they collect sneakers or bespoke shoes […] An elegant man always needs to be decoded.”
Nichanian’s penchant for crafting exquisite men’s clothing is undeniable, and she’s consistently innovating her designs. During her tenure at Hermès, she has transformed a once fledgling men’s collection into one of the premier fashion lines in the world. As she explained to LGBT magazine Out, “The Hermès man is always evolving, which inspires me as I approach each season. Whether it is proportions, fabrication, fit, or the intimate detail of a pocket that perfectly fits a personal item, the Hermès man has a strong sense of identity—he is a man sensitive to quality, details, and exceptional fabrics.”