Like many brands, Louis Vuitton has found itself embroiled in the #MeToo conversation in recent months.
Its latest brand ambassador, Emma Stone, is among the backers of the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment, and drew attention at the Oscars as much for her pointed remarks onstage as for her bold choice of wearing a Vuitton trouser suit instead of the traditional red carpet gown.
Parallel to that, the brand has quietly distanced itself from two of its campaign photographers, Patrick Demarchelier and Bruce Weber, who are among several industry figures accused of sexual misconduct. Both have denied the allegations, and Vuitton has not commented on the issue.
What that has to do with the collection that Nicolas Ghesquière showed at the Louvre — with Stone among the front-row guests — is debatable, though the subject wove itself into a backstage conversation, with the designer saying that discussion about the rights of women is now part of the daily conversation at Vuitton’s design studio.
“It’s a dialogue we have all the time,” Ghesquière said after the show. “Everyone is concerned and wants to make it good.” Ghesquière felt it also transpired in the clothes. He has been thinking of women in general — not just about how to dress them, but how female family members he grew up with shaped his taste and perception.
Those women were at the core of his fall display, which explored quintessentially French notions of elegance. Ghesquière played with “jolie madame” staples such as skirt suits, pleated skirts and day dresses, adding off-kilter details to make them relevant for the here and now.
The cropped jacket on a gray buttonless skirt suit was trimmed with spiky metal medallions and chains — fine strands sprouting from its embroidered collar, or thick links decorating faux pockets. Worn underneath was a black leather peplum top with long fringes spilling out the front.
He worked variations on “proper” knee-length skirts. A flecked gray version, with two rows of black buttons on the front, was paired with a round-shouldered patchwork blouse that was halfway between a couture silhouette and an athletic top. Similarly, a white pleated skirt was topped with a chunky shearling jacket.
“Sometimes we thought that to empower women in a cliché way was to put men’s clothes on her, but we forget some very strong women were wearing very feminine outfits. I love this idea also to explore that, to have women that changed the world and that were not dressing like men,” Ghesquière explained.
Trouser suits and cocktail dresses were paired with graphic waist trainers, the corset-like belts made popular by Kim Kardashian, though their impact was diluted by attaching them to draped halter-neck tops that drooped lower over one breast.
In contrast with last season’s Archlight sneaker, models wore ladylike heels with graphic harnesses strapped across the foot. As they sped down a dramatically lit ramp in an inner courtyard of the Louvre, rain pelting on the transparent plastic roof overhead, it was easy to get lost in the majesty of the 19th-century setting.
Behind them, in the glow of spotlights and an old-fashioned street lamp, stood bronze statues of snarling wolves and hounds. You couldn’t help but wish the collection had the same bite.