Nicolas Ghesquière, creative director of Louis Vuitton, likes to take his audience on a journey.
‘Strange Days' was the title of his next ready-to-wear installment, held as usual at the Louis Vuitton headquarters, only this time the purpose-built catwalk venue had been transformed into a black box, sealed from the morning sun. Inside, walls of transparent Perspex featured banks of LED lights, flashing red and blue. Then a film showed a man in a non-descript room wearing a virtual reality video helmet. Said the show notes: ‘The only limit is your imagination… the vocabulary of virtual worlds beckons us to initiate a heroic journey in which the protagonist gains strength, wisdom and character every step of the way.’
Ghesquière’s heroines (the models) then proceeded on their ‘voyage of self-knowledge’ in the form of sartorial role-play. The notes continued: ‘… with every world that our heroine experiences, the silhouette, constantly evolving, seeks to answer a question. Gender fluidity? Modern romance? The power of the body? Absolute femininity?’
Fashion is a serious business for Nicolas Ghesquière. Few designers think about or talk about it in this way, much less write it in their show notes. But his remodelling of Louis Vuitton is absolute. He has redefined the codes of the house: modernity meets heritage meets future-fabrics, together with familiar shapes, all of it oddly juxtaposed, to create the new. If it sounds a little pretentious is neither here nor there. To an audience for whom vision and visuals are everything, it works.
The ultimate modern Vuitton wardrobe, then, may be a cotton poplin bubble skirt, worn with a leather jacket, hand-painted with stripes and LV monogram. It may be a slim pink ankle-length dress embroidered with sparkle, a silk jumpsuit belted and zipped, a string vest sprouting feathers, an embroidered kilt or a short form-fitting dress made of undulating hi-tech silver. Whatever it is, it looks unmistakably Vuitton. Partly because every piece has a stridently modern quality (even if it’s a pretty puff-sleeved blouse), partly because of the way its all put together (styled with leather straps bandaging hands) and partly because each look is loaded with Vuittonist accessories – the profit-making heart of the world’s biggest-selling luxury goods house. The proliferation of bags, under Ghesquière, is surely unmatched in the industry, with the Twist bag in python and crocodile, the updated Speedy, the Go-14 in lambskin patchwork, to name just a few. The shoes are equally diverse, ranging from punkish black tire-tread platforms to the new high-heeled sling-back Richelieu.
The point, so perfectly made at Vuitton, and seen at other major fashion houses this show season, is that there is no single way of dressing, no dictating of trends or even shapes. The broader and more diverse the offering, the bigger the array of merchandise, the better.
The only question you need to answer is which heroine you want to be.