At the Louis Vuitton ready to wear show in Paris, Nicolas Ghesquière’s happiness in his new position was evident in both that intimate typed-up note and the beaming expression on his face when he emerged at the end. At Louis Vuitton’s first cruise show, and Ghesquière’s second for the house, that beam was perhaps broader.
It’s hard not to be happy though when you’re showing in an environment as picturesque as Monaco. As the final destination on this merry maison cruise jaunt, we’re in the old school playground of the wealthy – a principality where “cruise” collections, by the very strict definition of that word, are meant to be worn. Last time I was here, the skies were moody, which happened to suit the swift cruise offerings of Raf Simons at Dior. This time round, the skies are blue, the sea is sparkling and the light is casting some sort of positive glow on everything. I spent ten minutes on a sun lounger on a jetty at Monte Carlo Beach Club and that was enough to uplift the spirits.
That reflected in the collection we saw. It was interesting that even before the show, none of us journalists were treating this as merely a “cruise” collection. I say merely in the sense that cruise collections, despite their dominance (in terms of time and revenue) on the shop floor, are so often seen as filler, as the in-between stuff that designers churn out for commercial onus as opposed to a bold creative statement. This was different though. Yes, it was the first time Louis Vuitton were putting on show for their cruise a collection but more significantly, it was the second time HE was showing. HE as in Ghesquière. So grateful are we, fashion followers, to have his design presence back on the map, that anything he outputs is up for scrutiny, devotion and instant lust.
Ghesquière is fast establishing a language at Louis Vuitton that extends from the subtle invite (no theme – a simple Epi leather envelope with a beautifully calligraphed card and hand-typed note – this time it was from Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton) to the gleaming silver box like set build flooded with chrome spotlights. We may have been just outside the gate of the Prince’s Palace (by invitation from her serene highness, Charlene of Monaco herself) but once inside the purpose built glass box, and once a mechanical curtain closed around us, we could have been anywhere. Like the Paris ready to wear A/W 14-5 show, we also heard the same strange dripping noise, like a dulled heartbeat – the sound of anticipation perhaps. That led on to an equally chilling and alluring exclusive remix of the mega-new (that’s probably why it isn’t on the stream on the LV site) Röyksopp/Robyn track “Monument”, architected by Michel Gaubert.
Imran Amed of BOF here is enjoying the plush seating designed by Pierre Paulin. Rows of seating were once again closely spaced so the clothes were right next to us as they came down the snaking catwalk.
A set of postcards, given to every guest, featuring photographs of rockpools by French artist Ange Leccia were meant to clue us in, as did the A Trip or Voyage photo series, shot by Juergen Teller, juxtaposing the collection with photographs taken around Monaco. The location did have some subtle link with the clothes but that wasn’t the main hook, as was the case with Raf Simons’ ode to American women at his cruise show in New York.
An excuse to get out these ye olde Louis Vuitton super wide-legged organza trousers (a bargain from Tokio7) paired with Ryan Storer ear cuff, a Versus top, Simona Vanth shoes and kindly borrowed Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola bag and jacket.
Instead of going for a discernible theme or locale, Ghesquière cloaked elevated surface texture and experimental textiles with a language of familiarity. In the press notes, he talked of an “everyday attire” with a “timeless will”, and that vaguely 60s/70s leaning from A/W 14-5 was still present in this cruise collection. Furthermore, he mined a tried and tested cruise-appropriate theme, for him and for us – why, as Sebastian the crab put it, under the sea! Ghesquière is no stranger to scuba (Balenciaga S/S 03 remains on my most hunted list) and there’s some revisitation here. Except everything is sleeker and more refined this time round. The now superluxe bonded fabrics were shaped into zipper-fronted dresses and gently-flared trouser suits had a wetsuit smoothness. Coral and seaweed snaked their way up as embroidery on floppy skirts and sea anemone-esque spikes were formed into metal belts and as fringing on the new Petite Malle bags.
Above the water, polo shirts had peek-a-boo port holes and freeform floral prints that are meant to be sun drenched also anchored the collection. Maybe it was the feeling of the sun. Or the breezy mood that a Cruise collection instantly summons but there was definitely something more sensual about this collection. Ghesquière seemed in a freer mood to throw some curveballs. Like scalloped sequins (made to look like pearlescent cut-out leather) on a dress with a smudge of smutty lace and a black patent leather frill hem peeking out from beneath. A gold lame t-shirt that Sue Barker might have worn at Wimbledon in the 1970s. A candy pink trouser suit that looks like the model was sewn into it – that’s how good the fit was. A nod to F1 that’s about to start next week with Grand Prix chequerboard and stripes emblazoned on engineered knitwear. These were the things that had the inner Ghesquière fangirl punching the air. Yes yes yes. More more more. On the accessories front, Ghesquière also upped the ante. As the digital water moved (also conceived by Leccia) beneath the models’ feet, we got another Ghesquière-ism – a new reiteration of a gladiator sandal – a boot with criss cross straps going up the legs in an abstracted floral print. That, along with so many things in the collection will trickle down the fashion chain rapidly. I unfortunately wasn’t sitting on the side of the runway where the bags could be properly inspected (fun fact: Mr Bernard Arnault always sits on the side of the runway where he can see the all important bags in a Louis Vuitton collection) but from what I could see, candy coloured Petite Malle with rounded-off corners and cross-hatched leather bucket bags were impressive.
Despite the deliberate cruise nods, this was anything but filler-cruise. I don’t think Ghesquière is a designer that knows how to do “filler”. With this cruise show debut, we could see his intent to treat all four collections as beefed up and substantial as one another. It’s time to move on from the “There’s too many collections, too many clothes!” or “Fashion is too fast!” critiques. Instead, do as Ghesquière does, accept that pre collections are here to stay and just make every collection count creatively. Our brains and hearts will be better equipped to handle the upped frequency if the ideas are there.
P.S. I’m not blind to the fact that during Louis Vuitton show, news broke that an epic figure in fashion, Louise Wilson had passed away. I didn’t want it to be a footnote. I’m still trying to pen my thoughts down.
P.P.S. Yes, I was incredibly excited that Arsenal also won the FA cup, literally as canapes and cocktails were being served after the show. A simultaneous fashion and football high within twenty minutes. Ace.