Jubilance. Louis Vuitton Resort 2022

This is Nicolas Ghesquière’s second resort collection for Louis Vuitton without a destination show. A year ago in the early months of the pandemic he staged a studio shoot, but this time around he filmed a short movie at Axe Majeur, a sculpture park outside of Paris conceived by the late Israeli environmental artist Dani Karavan. An in-the-know local says of the place, “You feel like you’re outside time. You could be in some indeterminate future or some past utopia vision of the future.” Anyone familiar with Ghesquière knows that that description jibes with his career-long interests in sci-fi and outer space and with the time-collapsing fashion he’s made his métier at Vuitton. The monumental setting definitely befits a collection that was partly inspired by the nascent possibility of space tourism. In fact, Ghesquière said the prospect of public space travel inspired the collection’s anachronistic prints, which set an escalator, a basketball court, and a roadside motel, among other things, amidst alien landscapes. There were also parachute pleats on minidresses, pants with the padded quilting of spacesuits, and nods to the iconic vinyl of André Courrèges, the French designer whose streamlined Space Age creations of the 1960s still read as futuristic half a century later. “It’s a very optimistic, joyful collection,” he said. “There’s a jubilance to it.” This was reflected in the heraldic tailoring, a top and skirt aflutter with feathers, and a cocktail dress that glittered like a disco ball. A group of silk blouses with cape-like backs that added softness to the structure of their accompanying pencil skirts and high-waisted trousers achieved a more everyday kind of chic lift-off. However, personally, the collection doesn’t click for me – just like most of Ghesquière’s recent offerings for the brand.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Past, Present, Future. Louis Vuitton AW21

Nicolas Ghesquière continues to induldge in his favourite theme: a journey through time. Past, present, future. He made Louis Vuitton‘s autumn-winter 2021 runway of the Louvre’s Denon wing, his models mingling with ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan sculptures to the tunes of Daft Punk’s mega-hit “Around the World.” The notoriously hard-to-get duo agreed to lend the song for the show weeks ago, he said, pre-breakup. He also divined a collaboration with the Italian design atelier Fornasetti, and its famous hand-drawn faces of women from antiquity peered out from all manner of clothes and leather goods. “Since we are all in a motionless situation, we have to double our imagination of inventing an extraordinary journey,” Ghesquière told Vogue. That goes for the collection as much as the production values surrounding it. Propelled by the concept of movement, he alternated between blouson jackets and cocooning capes on the one hand and elongated torsos punctuated with skirts that bubbled around the knees on the other. Nearly all the looks were accompanied by wedge-heel boots with a slouchy, swaggering disposition. In general, I found most of the looks too clumsy, even though this collection was a showcase for the LV atelier’s savoir faire: jewel-encrusted tunics peeked from under color-blocked parkas and bombers, and otherwise simple ’60s-ish dresses in A-line or sack shapes were minutely embroidered in graphic patterns and motifs. The closing pair of gladiator dresses were canvases for Fornasetti drawings of ancient statuary. “I wanted something impactful, something that conveys hope and joy for what’s coming next, and for people to have a good time watching,” Ghesquière said. “A moment of fashion.” Well, there were better Ghesquière fashion moments in history, but this will do as the official end of digital fashion month.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Tourist vs. Purist. Louis Vuitton AW21

You might not be a fan of Virgil Abloh and his copycat practices, but one thing is sure: he delivers substance to Louis Vuitton‘s menswear (which sadly can’t be said of Nicolas Ghesquière’s recent seasons for women…). Abloh’s autumn-winter 2021 line-up seems to be his most personal to date, bringing conversations you would never really see at Vuitton. His sixth collection, named ‘Ebonics,’ came with a film directed by Josh Johnson that was powerfully centered on spoken word and performance, a call to radical thinking through the lens of menswear. Amongst the words delivered by Saul Williams and Kai Isiah Jamal were these: “Deconstruct the narratives… make spaces”; “Take down the walls, unravel the mysteries. Make it up to me.” And: “As Black people, as trans people, as marginalized people, the world is here for our taking, for it takes so much from us.” Abloh has mustered an educational encyclopedia of answers to the ineluctable questions that have been troubling all designers: over the point of fashion, of shows, of making clothes in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and all the crises that blew up in humanity’s face last year. “We’re still reeling,” he said, in a telephone call with Vogue. “We sat through so many heavy conversations in 2020, some so heated that things can’t be discussed anymore. But fashion can do this. Shows can do this.” Abloh’s belief in clear-eyed boyhood innocence – that grace period before awareness of socio-cultural biases sets in – has always been an inspiration signalled in his Vuitton collections and campaigns. “I start from the wonderment of boys. When you’re a boy there’s one thing that adults ask you: What do you want to be when you grow up? And you say artist, lawyer, doctor, football player, fighter pilot. But then, if I ask what does a doctor look like? There’s a knee-jerk. That’s where we can learn.” His point, spelled out amongst the stack of literature he releases with each collection, is this: “Fashion has the power to de-program these dress codes and impact possibilities.” The multi-level consciousness, and his ambition to educate, include, and create aspiration is down-to-earth in one direction, and high-flown in many others. “Tourist vs. Purist,” the slogan he wrote when he entered Louis Vuitton in 2018 returned on bags this season. “It’s my organizing principle for my point of view when I make things. A tourist is someone who’s eager to learn, who wants to see the Eiffel Tower when they come to Paris. The purist is the person who knows everything about everything.” Abloh exerts his positionality as both – the outsider who became the insider; the man with the power to bring young people with him into the former exclusion zone of high fashion.

There’s lot to unpack, from the Louis Vuitton baggage (some of it in the shape of carrier bags, potato sacks, an LV ‘Keepall’ in the form of a plane) to the symbolic reconfigurations of masculine archetypes, to the challenging of ownership of sources that Abloh built into the clothes. “There are a lot of stories mixing cultures,” he said. “And from that, a new language will be created.” Cool, considered, chic, and flowing with floor-length coats, easy slim tailoring, African draped wraps, kilts, and Western hats – styled by the super-stylist, Ibrahim Kamara – it plainly makes for Abloh’s best collection for the house since he arrived in 2018. And his most autobiographical yet -an exploration of his African heritage and of what it means to be at the pinnacle of a career in Europe as a Black American creative director. “When I grew up, my father wore Kente cloth, with nothing beneath it, to family weddings, funerals, graduations,” he said. “When he went to an American wedding, he wore a suit. I merged those two together, celebrating my Ghanaian culture.” Add LV patterns to the cloth, drape it, then pair and compare it again with tartan checks, and the result is indeed something new. So too, the diagonal green-on-white print on a leather motocross suit. “A memory of the wax print fabric my mom had around the house when I was growing up,” he chuckled. “She was the one who taught me to sew; and she had learned it with a tailor in Ghana.” The collection is a powerful and beautiful statement. Abloh concluded, “I’m an optimist. The future is yet to be decided.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

In Between. Louis Vuitton SS21

I’m really unconvinced by this Louis Vuitton collection delivered by Nicolas Ghesquière. It just felt so clumsy and messy. Which can’t be said of the show’s venue, which nearly each season looks better than the actual clothes on Vuitton’s runway (sorry…). Interspersed among the live audience in the freshly remodeled-by-LVMH La Samaritaine department store were 360-degree cameras that allowed viewers at home to swivel in their chairs, watch models coming and going, and see who did and didn’t score a better seat. It was almost like being there. “This season is very new in every way. The conditions that we’re facing are making us think differently. We came up with the idea of different degrees of presence.” In addition to the 360-degree cameras, green screens lined the walls and, in some places, the floors of La Samaritaine. Viewers of the livestream – the third way to watch and hear the show (there were live mics) – saw footage from Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire. Beyond the ’80s-ish silhouettes that have long been a touchpoint for the designer (and I think that’s the problem!), the connection between the Wenders movie and Ghesquière’s collection, was angels, which have two wings, but no gender. “My question this season was less about one theme; it was about this zone between femininity and masculinity,” he explained. “This zone is highlighted by nonbinary people, people that are taking a lot of freedom dressing themselves as they want, and, in turn, giving a lot of freedom to all of us. I found it inspiring to explore what the items are that represent this wardrobe that is not feminine, not masculine. I wanted to zoom in on that section in between.” The show began with a look that combined a timely Vote t-shirt (his absent American friends appreciated that) and baggy pleated chino pants cinched with a thick belt. It was emblematic of a collection that felt more spontaneous and street-ready than some of Ghesquière’s more glamorous outings. Basically, the entire line-up was kept in this sporty style. I’m intrigued by Nicolas’ take on the genderless fashion hitting such bourgeois brand as Louis Vuitton, but the clothes just don’t express that to me.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Back To Office (Someday). Louis Vuitton Resort 2021

For many people still working from home, the word “office” sounds abstract. Tailoring isn’t a novelty in the resort 2021 collections, but only the Louis Vuitton line-up by Nicholas Ghesquière makes you think that some day, the “business” dress-code will come back to our lives and replace the lazy Zoom homewear. Emphasizing the more everyday, less editorial aspect of his ready-to-wear, the look-book was shot on location in Louis Vuitton’s Paris headquarters. A photocopier stands at attention in the opening shot, and exit signs and fire doors appear in the background of others. The promise of gorgeous hourglass blazers and chic silk blouses makes the longing for “back to life” life even more intense… but this wasn’t the only aspect of the collection (which, by the way, was good without any far-fetched venue location). “I looked somewhere that has been calling out to me for a long time, somewhere I hadn’t taken the time to go back to. It was like a reset to uncover one inspiration after another, to imagine the next steps and how to create and work within this new context. I took the time to explore my creative identity and prepare the future.” Confronted with the unknowns of the coronavirus and the crushing recession it precipitated, designers have been revisiting their past successes. Nicolas Ghesquière is among them, though the search for lost time is not only a quarantine pursuit for him. On his autumn-winter 2020 runway, with the then as-yet uncanceled Met Gala and its theme of “Fashion and Duration” still on the horizon, Ghesquière held up a mirror to his own work. For this resort collection, he followed similar guidelines – lifting cargo pants from one collection and frilly rococo collars from another, and reuniting with the blouson shapes of the 1980s he likes – with results that read more easier than his runway outings typically do. Additionally, running through the collection is a playing-card leitmotif. When asked, Ghesquière claimed “the tarot” as his favorite card game, “because it can be used in many different ways. And the cards are full of symbols.” Nonetheless, he made effective use of the clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades of the playing-card deck. They bear more than a passing resemblance to the elements of the Louis Vuitton monogram, which Ghesquière made the most of by hybridizing them and then either adding them as decorative details on bags, or supersizing them as color-blocked patterns on streamlined mini and maxi dresses.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.