Past, Present, Future. Louis Vuitton AW20

This season, Louis Vuitton‘s Nicolas Ghesquière enlisted the costume designer Milena Canonero, a frequent collaborator of Stanley Kubrick’s, to create a monumental backdrop of 200 choral singers, each one clothed in historical garb dating from the 15th century to 1950. It was a mammoth undertaking, and a truly beautiful one. “I wanted a group of characters that represent different countries, different cultures, different times,” Ghesquière explained beforehand. “I love this interaction between the people seated in the audience, the girls walking, and the past looking at them—these three visions mixed together.” The time-collapsing sensation was heightened by the fact that the chorus performed was a composition by Woodkid and Bryce Dessner based on the work of Nicolas de Grigny, a contemporary of Bach’s. All of today’s fashion is a synthesis of the past, but Ghesquière makes a closer study of it than most. He’s compelled by the anachronous. A few seasons ago he clashed 18th-century frock coats and the high-tech trainers, creating a look as full of contrasts as the times we live in. For autumn-winter 2020, he offers even more time clashes: jewel-encrusted boleros (I can already see Rosalia performing in one of those) meet parachute pants, buoyant petticoats are paired with fitted tops whose designs looked cribbed from robotics, bourgeois tailoring is layered over sports jerseys. My favourite look of the collection – a sheer tulle dress with latex finishings worn over a leather motocross body – carried the quintessence of Ghesquière’s concept. The collection comes perfectly in time with the upcoming Met Gala (which is scheduled for the beginning of May and isn’t surrendering to coronavirus – for now) and its theme. Nicolas is the cohost of the gala, and Louis Vuitton is sponsoring the Costume Institute exhibition, “About Time: Fashion and Duration”. Just as in the exhibition’s idea, the collection says it out loud: fashion is a mirror of the present moment, built from the past. And it has future, as well.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / Nicolas Ghesquière’s AW12 for Balenciaga

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Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Nicolas Ghesquière‘s AW12 collection for Balenciaga – “Join A Weird Trip“!

Nicolas Ghesquière’s time at Balencaga defined the 2000s and the first years of 2010s. And his autumn-winter 2012 collection is one of the greats. The corporate spies and outer-space agents on fluorescent-lit runway: that’s a fashion moment you just can’t forget. The designer moved the fashion conversation along  in a few different ways with this line-up: by proposing new silhouettes with exaggerated, even challenging proportions (bonded leather coats with shoulders out to there, sculptural padded sweaters over stiff A-line skirts with doubled front panels); by deliberately trafficking in items of “questionable” taste (those black satin sweatshirts with spacey slogans like “JOIN A WEIRD TRIP” and “OUT OF THE BLUE” are today the ultimate collector item!); and by continuing to emphasize fabric research. The IT girls wore jumpsuits made from a hi-tech parachute material, and his animal prints came two ways—as a jacquard snake on the wool bodices of the office rebels’ strapless dresses and as leopard spots that looked like liquid mercury on the executives’ jackets. Incredible. Of course, to be honest with you, any Balenciaga collection by Ghesquière is a favourite, so here’s a brief recap of the best moments starting from 2010:

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SS12, AW11 and SS13.

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SS10, SS11 and AW10.

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AW12, SS11 and AW10.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

 

Belle Époque Today. Louis Vuitton SS20

And here is the last collection of Paris Fashion Week: Louis Vuitton. It’s been a season of joyful nostalgia and bold dressing, and Nicolas Ghesquière ticked both boxes with his line-up. For spring-summer 2020 Ghesquière took us to Belle Époque–era Paris after his last season‘s venture to the 1980s. “It’s a part of French history that’s very interesting in art, as well as culturally, in terms of emancipation of women, and, of course, in literature with Proust,” he explained. It’s also a period that more or less coincided with the birth and rise of the house of Louis Vuitton. In the late 1800s, advances in construction and technology ushered in a new era of travel for the elite, to whom Monsieur Vuitton sold his  monogram trunks. There were many Belle Époque references in this collection: the pouf sleeves of shirts; the iris boutonnières, each one different; the Gibson Girl hairdos, and all the Art Nouveau touches, from the psychedelic swirls of a green jacquard coat to the painterly flowers on dresses to a little leather jacket hand-painted with angelic faces. In a way I miss the times when Nicolas did future-wear: we’ve got Gucci, Paco Rabanne and a bunch of other labels that dig in the past for references. Still, the huge screen that featured super-futurist Scottish musician SOPHIE performing an extended version of “It’s Okay to Cry”  while the models walked the runway somehow matched with the clothes’ historical background. And this sort of time-spanning eclecticism is very Ghesquière.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Time Travel. Louis Vuitton Resort 2020

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Nicolas Ghesqière seems to be not over his love for the past decades. Louis Vuitton‘s resort 2020, which was presented at the historic TWA Flight Center in New York (the fantastic space, renovated for years and soon to be open as a hotel, was designed by Eero Saarinenback  in 1962), was all about the past: 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, combined with Elizabethan NYC’s art deco heritage. Which again reminds us that fashion, unfortunately, has problems with finding inspiration anywhere else. But back to the collection. Stewardess dresses and Chrysler-Building-inspired bags; 1980’s big sleeves and combat boots of the 1990s; Catwoman skullcaps and pantsuits of Wall Street. Highlight? Marte Mei van Haaster’s strass-lined caped crop-top. But in general, not a fan of this collection.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

80s. Louis Vuitton AW19

Nicolas Ghesquière‘s autumn-winter 2019 collection for Louis Vuitton was an ode to self-expression, but also, a clear nod to the 1980s. You loved it or hated it. With a faux Centre Pompidou facade built inside of Louvre’s Cour Carrée (yes, one mega-museum of Paris in another), the whole scene was time transporting. Eccentric and eclectic, the jackets had big shoulders, skirts were over-the-knee and prints made you think of the Memphis Group. The leather skullcaps and colourful riding boots are here for a go-kart race. The most convincing looks were the ones near the finale: high-waisted pants, over-sized blazers and leather ties (they made think of Hedi Slimane’s last season debut at Celine, though…). Can’t say this collection is a favourite of mine, but it was a closing statement of Paris fashion week: the past is today’s fashion favourite sandpit to play in.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.