"I don't believe in gimmicks," says Christophe Lemaire, who recently expanded the menswear collection for his eponymous label to include denim and sneakers. Lemaire, who's also the womenswear artistic director at Hermès, is best known for his easy, timeless style, mixing elements of workwear with the classic pieces in his men's collection. On a recent night in Paris, the designer took the time to share his personal rules for dressing.
The design process.
"It's complicated to explain. I don't know myself how it works. I can be moved and inspired by very little things: someone in the street, books, a movie, or my girlfriend, Sarah-Linh. I'm naturally very curious, and I watch everything around me. Even politics. Everything is inspiring."
Every outfit starts with a solid base.
"I believe in a personal uniform. Every morning you wake up, and we all have active lives and have to rush, but dressing up is important, so I believe in easywear. I believe you have to have a good pair of shoes—the shoes are the base. For me, it's boots. Plus a good pair of chinos or denim or pleated pants. I own about three to four pairs of pants and two pairs of boots, which I know I'll feel myself in when I wear them."
Easy on the feet.
"Shoes have to be good quality, of course, but not over the top. I don't like when it's too precious. I like when it's a bit rough and easy to put on. That's why I prefer zip boots, even if laced boots can be very stylish. I like something you can slip in and zip up. For summer, I like Moroccan or Chinese slippers—you just put them and go."
"I love tailoring. A jacket and a coat have to be properly cut out. There's a part of me that likes very classic, mannish suits. I'm thinking of Alain Delon [pictured above] or Lino Ventura in seventies French thrillers. They may not be super-good movies, but there's a specific men's style that I like. I also like the deconstructed Japanese suit of the eighties. I generally work both in the collection."
Breaking up with bespoke.
"I like shirts to be oversize, with a collar that's slightly too big. I think it's extremely stylish, especially on a slim body. I appreciate the beauty of bespoke, whether it's shirting or suiting or shoes, and I have experienced that in my life, but at the end of the day, I think ready-to-wear can be extremely relevant and stylish. I'm not sure bespoke is a guarantee of style."
Two looks from Lemaire's fall 2014 collection
Inspired by layering.
"I like layering a lot, but it has to make sense. I don't believe in style when it's artificial. I like the concept of sleeveless jackets or even sleeveless coats under a coat or on the top of a coat. This winter, we designed a leather jacket without sleeves. It's a bit like a reporter jacket in leather, which can be a bit odd, but also super-stylish. I like it on an oversize tweed jacket or on a coat. It reminds me of Basquiat, but it could also remind me of elderly Algerian men in Belleville in Paris. They will layer a tweed jacket or a leather reporter jacket with even a Chinese Maoist suit and nice shoes. I like that. It's very inspiring."
What's on his wrist.
"I'm not a fetishist at all, and I don't collect watches. My favorite one, strangely enough, is a digital Texas Instruments watch from the seventies. Now I have a Junghans, which is a German watch brand designed by Max Bill. It has a black face—very generic—and I like that. It's simple and subtle."
A Few of His Favorite Things
Style icons: "I'm a big fan of Nick Cave, David Byrne, Marcel Duchamp, and Nicolas de Staël. They have something that you cannot explain. They have a way of wearing clothes that's a bit off-fashion. It's impossible to explain. It's a certain freedom of mind."
Bands: "There's a brilliant French band called Cheveu that's a mix of smart punk rock with a little bit of electronics. It's just good. And there's this band from San Francisco called Thee Oh Sees. They're not so new, but they're still playing very exciting garage rock that's a bit psychedelic and sixties, but in a fresh way."
Travel destination: "Riding horses in the amazing landscapes of Mongolia. Some friends have this amazing summer camp with horses where you can ride for hours and hours in the mountains and fields. You have this fantastic sense of space and freedom. It's a very luxurious moment."