Dispatches from Paris: The New Guard at Louis Vuitton

Nicolas Ghesquiere’s first show for LV

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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It was the moment the fashion world had been waiting for: Nicolas Ghesquière’s first show for Louis Vuitton. This was fashion history in the making, the changing of the guard, from the American Marc Jacobs’ 16-year reign at the luxury goods house, to Ghesquière, the Frenchman, famous for his 15-year transformation of the house of Balenciaga.

We were in the same location, the courtyard in the Louvre, but it couldn’t have looked more different. No blacked-out theatre, no auditorium seating, no extravagant set featuring a carousel, hotel lifts, fountain, escalators or steam train. No theatre at all. We were inside an aluminium box with shutters that opened to let the light flood in. The seating was a cream, padded maze, the audience so close to the clothes you could reach out and touch them. Every element, pointedly different to what had gone before. ‘Today is a new day. A big day,’ is how Ghesquière put it in a letter to his audience, taking immense care to be gracious about his predecessor: ‘I salute the work of Marc Jacobs, whose legacy I wholeheartedly honour.’ Jacobs, of course, started Vuitton's ready to wear from scratch. Ghesquière, on the other hand, had something to play off, an image to completely remodel.

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The clothes were completely unexpected. Given that Ghesquière is the designer who made Balenciaga the world’s most-copied brand, a pioneering powerhouse of super-modernity and cutting-edge shapes. This was none of those. And why should it be? Why would he recreate Balenciaga at Louis Vuitton, the world’s most-consumed luxury leather goods brand with its own rich history? He said he was on a ‘quest for authenticity and innovation’. In his letter, the most revealing line said it all: ‘The desire for timelessness. Does not every designer ultimately seek to create something timeless?’

It would be lame to call this collection an ode to the 1960s, even if that was the era that he distilled and twisted into something ultimately modern. Skirts and dresses were belted, short and A-line; coats were narrow and featured wide lapels; trousers were second-skin leggings in glossy black or fine woven checks.

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There was a sporty ski vibe with zip-through tops featuring a band of colourful zigzags or knitted ski-racer leggings. There were fluid dresses with panels of print and fluted sleeves with little slashes on the hip, revealing bare skin. Innovation came in some of the fabrics, such as the bands of matt paillettes on a skirt that looked like feathers, or tops and jackets that burst with firework sparkle. But most of all, you couldn’t have imagined that Ghesquière’s debut Vuitton collection would have so much commercial clout – that ‘timelessness’ he was after: great little coats, straightforward macs, traditional riding jackets and boots and bags galore in that same modern-timeless vein.

Backstage, the designer was swamped with wellwishers including Catherine Deneuve whose most-famous 1960s film Belle Du Jour, could have been one of Ghesiquière’s inspirations. Aside from the celebrities, it was the entire phalanx of LVMH troops, headed up by the all-powerful chairman and chief executive officer, Bernard Arnault, who were most excited to praise and congratulate the emotional Ghesquière, new king of Vuitton.

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