#CNI Lux Day 2: The Language of Power Dressing
Alice Newbold, Vogue Daily Editor, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Lisbon
Hervé Pierre has built a career out of power dressing. In conversation with Suzy Menkes at the Condé Nast International Luxury conference, he has the discretion of a designer who has dealt with high-profile clients since he worked at Balmain in Paris at age 23.
Now 53, Hervé Pierre’s four decades in the business have seen him spend 14 years behind the scenes as creative director at Carolina Herrera, with stints as a ‘ghost writer’ at Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang and Bill Blass along the way. His most recent project – a collection of 12 navy and black dresses launched in 2017 under the label Atelier Caito for Hervé Pierre – was the first time the French-born designer has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. The motive? To make a collection not subject to the whims of fashion, but to be worn repeatedly. One of the very building blocks, he tells Menkes, of power dressing.
“I didn’t look to design for the First Ladies, I worked for companies who dressed them and it was an honour,” he explained, before sharing stories, including the time Monica Lewinsky moved onto the same floor as him in his apartment block and when he hung up on Laura Bush after she tried to recruit him as a style advisor.
“Each time you enter a new personality,” he shared. With Hillary Clinton, he tried to suggest wearing a pencil skirt instead of trousers, but she was firm that her Manolo Blahniks would not work with them. She would, she said, not be able to get up the stairs.
It’s a different story with the current First Lady. The dress he designed for Melania Trump to wear at the inauguration ball in 2017 was “a big honour” for him, politics aside. “It was challenging. I had to create a very specific dress, one that will forever be associated with my name, one that makes sense, one that’s not over the top. I tried to make something very sharp.”
He continues to advise on her wardrobe. “Because she doesn’t speak so much, her clothes give her some sort of mystery,” he explained. But, people can over-intellectualise fashion when it is also just for the eyes. “I put her in stripes, and people said it looked like she was in prison, it was a disaster!”
On whether the success of his capsule collection of dresses with Nicolas Caito has left him with a desire to further his designs, he said he couldn’t envisage himself taking the helm of an established house. “I believe I have the expertise and the background, but the amount of collections! It’s an overload of product! If I can take a core part of the wardrobe, like the dress, and give it a longer life, then why not?”
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit the website