There’s a phrase that comes up halfway through a conversation with Pierre Mahéo that sums up this stubborn Frenchman: “Jusqu’au-boutiste.” It loosely translates as “going all the way,” or pursuing something “to the bitter end,” and Mahéo employed it in relation to finding an identical color match for the silk scarves and wool sweaters in Officine Generale’s fall collection. He wanted them to blend into each other so that they were almost indistinguishable as garments – and he was willing to keep sampling and liaising with his suppliers until he got the match.
That desire to refine to the nth degree permeates every aspect of his nine-year-old label, which was founded as a sleek menswear offering and has since expanded into womenswear. No logo, no major marketing campaign, no influencer seeding program; Mahéo prefers to quietly turn out good-quality clothes made in Europe in classic cuts that vary only by the odd centimeter every season. It’s working: the final three months of 2021 comprised the most successful quarter ever for the brand. E-commerce has been particularly lucrative, but he reports that two new stores in Paris and another in New York are also performing well. “I think people feel like they’ve been starved of human interaction,” said Mahéo, who would rather share anecdotes about anonymous shoppers in his stores than boast about celebrity moments. “But I don’t tell the store team to sell, sell, sell. I tell them to advise on what looks good, what fits well.” Last week, a man came into the rue du Dragon store to replace a navy crewneck sweater he had bought in 2016 and which had worn through. “He was thrilled to find the exact style in store in our Daily Classics line,” said Mahéo. “The only thing I am strict on is continuity. It has to be consistent.”
Lauren Hutton, who is still promoting her tomboyish take on wardrobe classics 50 years after she first made it endearing, was the inspiration this season. “Those wide pants, those loose denims, the soft shirts, she kind of mastered it,” said Mahéo. He even opted to pair almost every look with Japanese Asahi vulcanized deck shoes, Hutton style, after the original shoe designs for the show, which Mahéo canceled last week on account of Omicron, didn’t arrive in time for the lookbook shoot. There were some hard-working pieces here: a double-faced wool classic overcoat in a Loro Piana fabric, so soft it felt like cashmere but without the price tag; a lambksin suede bomber jacket with ribbed cuffs in the richest shade of khaki; slouchy cherry-red velvet trousers; a crisp spearmint wool-mix sweater matched to a spearmint foulard and paired with ecru jeans. “That sweater, we did it with 10% cashmere last season, we were able to increase it to 30% cashmere this season—that’s the same quality the top luxury brands use,” he pointed out. “Maybe people need a bit more kindness and softness on a daily basis. It’s been rough outside.”
You won’t see these clothes on the cover of a magazine, or a red carpet, or on every influencer’s feed. But as Mahéo says, “there is nothing more dated than a trend.”