Beyond The Bandage Dress: Michelle Ochs Is Taking Hervé Léger Into A New Era

Everyone knows the Hervé Léger bandage dress. The going-out dress has been a wardrobe staple of the 39-year-old label for decades — seen on supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford in the ‘90s, worn by era-defining celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton in the 2000s, and sported by characters on fashion-forward shows like Gossip Girl and Revenge in the 2010s. In 2024, a year after taking the helm as Hervé Léger’s creative director, Michelle Ochs is ensuring it stays that way — but is not the be-all and end-all of the brand book. 
“That's what I love about the brand: Everybody remembers it from a period of time in their life, whether how they discovered it, or them wearing it, or a moment they were in when they were wearing it,” says Ochs. “It's really nice when you talk to people, and they're aware of the brand.”
The founder of the New York-based brand Et Ochs — who discovered Hervé Léger as a teenager when shopping for a homecoming dress at a shopping centre in Maryland — is hardly a newcomer herself. Ochs has been a fixture of the New York Fashion scene since graduating from Parsons School of Design and starting Cushnie et Ochs with Carly Cushnie in 2008, a label the duo would go on to co-design until 2018. 
“When you're a startup, you have to define yourself and write your own codes and do everything from scratch,” says Ochs of why she joined Hervé Léger after designing under her name, a reverse-order move in an industry that typically sees creatives earning their chops at an established label before striking on their own. “[I asked myself,] ‘Can I take the challenge and honour another house's DNA and codes and make that my own?’”
Ochs began to answer the question by going into the decade-spanning archives. “I would pull things and be like, ‘This feels so fresh and modern. I can’t believe this is 20 years old,’” she says. She then began making “little incremental changes” to the designs — adjusting the “proportions of the bandages” and extending some of the mini hemlines to midi (“it was so much skin!”) — before making her mark on the designs and rounding out the collection with more separates and jumpsuits.
“I [want to] establish the rest of it, building that world around the bandage dress, a look and feel that you can have outside of the bandage dress,” says Ochs. There are still elements of the signature Leger look but they manifest in cotton pieces with a denim treatment which gives the illusion of a jean fabric and looser-fit jersey dresses with subtle cinched detailing: “I'm giving the bandage to her in like doses.” 
With just three collections under her belt — the first of which, Spring 2024, just hit stores, before Pre-Fall and Autumn 2024 lines are set to drop later in the year — Ochs’ touch is already apparent. While under previous creative director Christian Juul Nielsen’s direction, Hervé Léger doubled down on its sexy, club-era roots (albeit in a much cooler, edgier way than the ‘00s could ever deliver) and going-out clothing, Ochs is proposing something more versatile. Clothing that women can wear every day rather than just on special occasions: body-skimming midi dresses that wouldn’t look out of place at an office, romantic fringe-adorned maxis made for date night, and shiny fabrics for a night out that doesn’t involve stumbling out of the club at three in the morning.
“I'm a mum of two now, and I still love and appreciate sexy and feminine, but there's a balance, and I think bringing that softer femininity to the brand has been my biggest contribution [so far],” says Ochs.
To set the tone for the new brand direction, for the debut lookbook, Ochs and stylist Natasha Royt put the models in tights and shot them against Manhattan as a backdrop. “I wanted to show her with her hair down, not super-snatched, because I think that all feeds back into what people remember Hervé Léger previously like — as clubwear, and eveningwear which it still is but the modern woman has changed,” says Ochs. “It is still the same amazing product, but like let's maybe not put her in the heel… let’s cover her up.” 
To further her point, Ochs brings up the black-foil print bandage dress with a high neckline and cap sleeves (photo above) that she wore to the 2023 CFDA Awards, a look that she sees as a “complete opposite” of what you would previously expect from Hervé Léger. “It felt like a risk at the time [of design], but it’s one of our top sellers,” she says.
As Ochs awaits more of this type of customer feedback from the first collection now that it’s finally on the shelves and in shoppers' hands — “I love to see what’s working; selling is the proof of concept” — her mission is simple: “I am not putting anything out there that I wouldn't want to wear.” 
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