Nicolas Ghesquière faces a daunting task at Louis Vuitton. The house was never a sleeping giant, its codes never dormant. Before Marc Jacobs was brought in to give it a fashion profile, Vuitton’s identity as a timeless, travel-centric accessories house of impeccable quality and stature was rock solid. Part of the brand shtick and appeal were about residing above the fray; there was a certain tony disdain for fashion vicissitudes from a house that had stayed not only active but relevant without caving to such folly.
That was a fashion lifetime ago. Now, Vuitton is very much in the fashion fray, with Ghesquière charged with developing for it a distinct fashion identity. That has proven challenging. He started his tenure with a “wardrobe concept.” He has maintained that philosophy while adding increasing intensity to the clothes, sometimes working a strong Seventies current, and usually, some degree of the audacious futurism on which he made his name. The latter was the case here, with an Eighties bent in a strong-shouldered silhouette.
Backstage, Ghesquière spoke of capturing a mood of French savoir-faire via a dressed-up concept of style. He was inspired by time spent recently at Place Vendôme in what will become the brand’s new store. He showed there, the space still raw and flooded with glorious second-floor light. As illustrative of Parisian chic, Ghesquière drew from the women of the 1984 film “Rive Droite, Rive Gauche,” the music of which opened the show. “It’s a great movie about corporation and lawyers,” he said. “The women are so strong, so sophisticated. I was really curious to try to explore that.”
That exploration didn’t relate in any understandable way to the classic iconography that remains key to Vuitton’s identity. It made for a not insignificant disconnect; while Vuitton’s core merch — its core business — continues to telegraph pragmatic chic, these clothes were as complicated as it gets.
Ghesquière started on a strong note — fluid dresses imbued by their incongruous power shoulders with interesting attitude. But look four — a pea-green pantsuit with a peculiar jacket, cut asymmetrically to expose the armpits (which looked uncomfortable) — suggested quizzical things ahead. From there, he let loose with a barrage of cut-and-drape overstatement; if he could trick it out, he did. On jackets, what looked like capelets in front separated in back into flapping wings. Demonstrative zippers from the knee down adorned already flashy tight pants and lace leggings; dresses were sheer here, cutout there and beset with multiple layers, textures and embellishments. It has the feel of futuristic disco, informed by Cardin with an Eighties appreciation.
On the upside, Ghesquière’s new bags were great. He continues to do a fabulous job of expanding that repertoire with fashion offerings that hold the promise of future classics.