LVMH's Samaritain complex

It only took 15 years for Nicolas Ghesquière’s next runway venue to finally be ready: Louis Vuitton will cap off Paris Fashion Week on Oct. 6 with a fashion show at La Samaritaine, WWD has learned.

Ghesquière will parade his spring 2021 women’s collection on the top floor of the not-yet-completed complex under a glass dome known as “La Rotonde,” while those tuning in to the livestream will have a completely different experience thanks to green-screen technology and other digital razzmatazz.

“Nicolas’ goal is to create a connection with the guests,” according to Vuitton. “It is a fashion show that has been designed for digital, but based on a live experience.”

Indeed, some front-row guests will be provided with a dedicated device to interact with the proceedings. Vuitton is planning two shows, each with about 200 people.

This marks the first event at La Samaritaine, the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned department store shuttered in 2005 due to safety concerns. After overcoming a tangle of administrative hurdles, the massive, block-long building is being reimagined as a mixed-use complex incorporating a Cheval Blanc luxury hotel, the fabled Samaritaine department store, office space, restaurants, low-income housing and a day-care center. Further delayed by pandemic-related shutdowns and limitations, it is now expected to open in early 2021.

“It’s a one-off, bespoke experience,” said Michael Burke, Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive officer. “It’s a historical Parisian landmark — the 19th century meets the 21st century, so it’s a play on time. Nicolas has spent a lot of time meditating about fashion over time,” he added, referring to the upcoming exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” now slated to open Oct. 29.

The show site will offer live guests 360-degree views of Paris rooftops and churches, although those tuning in on Instagram and other online platforms will have other marvels to gawk at.

Burke expects this physical-meets-digital event will attract a multiple of viewers from the last Vuitton women’s show, which had five million.

“It’s a fantastic way of telling multiple stories at the same time,” he said in an interview: one for the curated, professional audience, and another for “the world that wants to see the show at the same time.  And when your audience is the world, and not a curated crowd, you need a lot more storytelling.

“So what you’re going to be seeing is a technology that allows you to splice in vast amounts of information that the audience is dying to see,” he said. “We definitely didn’t want it to be gimmicky. It’s to create a totally immersive experience.”

Ghesquière and Vuitton have a history of staging shows in buildings still emerging from renovation, or spanking new, as it did for spring 2017 in the raw volumes of its future flagship store on Place Vendôme, and for spring 2015 in the underbelly of the new Fondation Louis Vuitton art museum by Frank Gehry.

In recent years, Vuitton has staged its women’s fashion shows in and around the Louvre Museum. Burke characterized this season as a pause. “In 2021, you’ll see our relationship with the Louvre augmented,” he said wryly.

LVMH acquired a majority stake in La Samaritaine in 2001, winning control over prime real estate smack dab in the center of Paris — and across the street from Vuitton headquarters.

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