This was one of the best Louis Vuitton collections in a while. In a long while. The Louvre’s Passage Richelieu was decked out in dozens of antique chandeliers – collected over many months, they set the stage for what Nicolas Ghesquière described in his press notes as a “grand bal of time.” At Louis Vuitton, Ghesquière has been fascinated by the notion of time and the way fashion intersects with it and doubles back. He’s a master at colliding references and juxtaposing surprising elements to create anew. With the company celebrating the 200th birthday of the house’s founder, Ghesquière had another reason to take up the subject. As company lore goes, the Passage Richelieu was used by Louis Vuitton for his meetings with Empress Eugénie, for whom he was the exclusive trunk maker. Eugénie might have recognized the panniered silhouettes of this show’s first few looks. The sumptuous, elaborately embellished dresses were girded at the hips in the 19th-century style, but where her gowns would’ve been weighed down with underskirts, Ghesquière’s dresses fairly bounced as the models made their way down the runway in open-toe satin wrestling boots. There were shades of Paul Poiret and Erté in these looks, with their finely beaded headpieces and art nouveau sunglasses. Only neither Poiret nor Erté would likely have encountered denim, and if they had, they never would’ve paired a beaded bias-cut slip dress with jeans, or cut a jean jacket with a tailcoat’s proportions. That’s Ghesquière’s time-traveling touch, which this time focused on opulent, untamed, nearly forgotten decadence. The preponderance of capes stemmed from another strand of Ghesquière’s story this season: he’s designed Alicia Vikander’s costumes for the upcoming HBO Max series from Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep. The show, according to HBO, “reveals the uncertain ground that lies at the border of fiction and reality, artifice and authenticity, art and life.” Ghesquière, for his part, is interested in the uncertain ground between the past, present, and future. “I like the figure of a vampire who travels through the ages, adapting to dress codes of the era,” his press release read. One cape came in polka dots with a jaunty jabot; two others cut diagonally across the body looked like going-out tops for the club, not a ball; and a couple more, at “the threshold of couture,” were made from what appeared to be feathery frayed chiffon. A protester carrying a sign that read “Overconsumption = Extinction” made it to the end of the runway. The magic of the ball was momentarily broken; reality was bumping up against the fairy tale. Still, this was peak Ghesquière, merging distant and recent fashion history with the relaxed codes of today.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.