I’m an unabashed fan of what Charaf Tajer is up to with his two-year-old brand Casablanca. The Paris-based designer, 33, makes clothing that is so pop in its evocations, so direct in its references, that it possesses a kind of purity, almost an innocence. He loves beautiful colors and people, and places like Gstaad, Morocco, and Hawaii—“I like places with a very strong iconography,” he said by phone in Paris last week. He also likes fancy dogs, and thinks fruit is gorgeous. His favorite designers are Coco Chanel, Gianni Versace, and Hermès. I would bet that if you took an otoscope to his ear and looked inside his head, cartoon-style, you’d find those Catherine Deneuve Chanel No. 5 commercials, Helmut Newton’s photographs from Nice in the ’80s, and Cary Grant in a neckerchief all swirling around. (Or maybe Aristotle Onassis, Tajer’s self-proclaimed icon: “He’s an elegant, very classic entrepreneur.”) His clothes purr like a vintage sports car ad: Do you like luxury? Do you like the cool feel of a butter leather interior under your handmade pants? The driver’s poodle looks at you and winks. “Casablanca,” says a man you just know smokes an expensive cigar every night. “Grace, space, place!”
The clothes are ostentatious, but craftily so. Tajer, who was an LVMH Prize finalist last year, employs two artists who are the brand’s full-time painters, creating swirling, wonderfully ridiculous late ’80s Versace-ish assemblages of dogs, women, and various concepts of paradise. His clothes look great with pearls, big loafers, and coiffed hair. They are the cinematic dream of the mischievous pleasures that come with life lived well. You could call his guy Bro Brummell.
Tajer’s spring collection was inspired by a sojourn to Hawaii, but he wanted to do something more aggressive for fall, so he focused on Monaco and the heyday of Formula One. Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief made it in there, too, as did the sheer opulence of the jet-set splashing out at the principality’s famous casinos. Some of the collection’s strongest looks were those that are now firmly Casablanca signatures, like a Granny-in-Chanel pantsuit that fits a guy like a sweatsuit, and the blousy pants with loan-shark dagger-collar button-ups. His vivacious knits are must-haves, as well. This season he introduced a full womenswear offering, though he was already producing and selling pieces for Net-a-Porter, and women buy his men’s silk blouses and outerwear. It nearly outshone the men’s, if you can believe it.
Casablanca pursues a type of male beauty we rarely see in present-day menswear. Basically: Casablanca’s men are vain, with none of the vulnerability of, say, Alessandro Michele’s Gucci. The idea borrows heavily from womenswear—“Women are the strongest,” Tajer said, “so we have to get inspiration from them”—but it’s as much about an attitude of conceit, and a regard for panache, as it is about traditionally feminine shapes and colors. The brand reminds me of those posses of Armenian and Persian old men you see dripped out in sweat suits and chains in front of Starbucks in Beverly Hills, holding court in the highest echelon of male friendship. Every rapper’s stylist should have Tajer’s team on speed dial.
On the other end of the exorbitant wealth spectrum is the granddaddy of them all: Hermès. It’s one of the few brands whose digital fashion week presentation seems to match the tenor of the brand, in that it is a subtle, tightly choreographed, but quietly executed moment of serenity. The designer Veronique Nichanian oversees a live performance of the models skipping and swanning through the brand’s airy headquarters with a seeming casualness that’s surely a beast to pull off.
Hermes’s clothing is so considered—so patient, even—that it feels almost humble. Of course, the jackets are made of crocodile leather, and the sweaters are knit from the world’s milkiest cashmeres. But the attention to utility and serving the customer is marvelously old-world. For all the noise the Birkin market seems to make, it’s the hushed clothes and accessories that makes men customers for life.