Yesterday in Paris, a slice of fashion history happened: Ghesquière showed his first collection since leaving Balenciaga as creative director, stepping in to fill those prestigious shoes left by Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. In the grand scheme of things, what with the Ukraine situation or announcement of a Kardashian-West wedding date, this may not seem the most important event of late to some (N.B. the Kimye reference is clearly a joke). However, with all the buzz going on, you wouldn’t have guessed it. Often touted as the designer of his generation, Ghesquière possesses an incredible talent and did a sterling job at Balenciaga, leaving the house with a near-perfect collection of modern silhouettes with a Cristobal signature. After a period of silence from him on the designing front, during which he conducted a very candid interview with System magazine, it was joyously announced that Nicolas Ghesquière was to pick up where Marc Jacobs was leaving off, at the creative helm of the jewel in LVMH’s crown: Louis Vuitton.
Usually, when a designer takes over creative direction of a house, they have access to a wealth of history and deep archives, plummeting the depths to draw inspiration from the core fabric of the brand, as Wang did post-Ghesquière at Balenciaga, or Raf at Dior. For Nicolas though, he came to a semi-clean slate. Louis Vuitton is relatively young as a ready-to-wear label, with Marc Jacobs as his only predecessor since the late Nineties. Marc Jacobs did an unforgettable job at bringing the leather goods brands to the forefront of fashion, creating patent leather and presenting the most elaborate of shows, featuring lifts, elevators, carousels and more, none of which ever detracted from his beautiful collections.
Wednesday’s show was a total break from that side of the brand, as Nicolas chose a stark, clean space to unveil his first steps. The blinds were lifted and natural light flooded into the room, echoing the new era. From the setting to the music, it was a very carefully thought out show on Ghesquière’s part, with Kelis singing “Oh come here, copycat! You’re my puppet, you know I love it!” as Freja Beha Erichsen stepped out in the first look. As a designer who has entire blogs dedicated to the fact that his Balenciaga designs are constantly being ripped off, it was a humourous and poignant song, including the apt lyrics “How do you keep it so fresh?”.
As for the collection itself, the French designer kept the brand’s money makers in there: patent ankle boots, little bags, leather belts and the all-new mini trunk bag. He referenced some of Jacobs’ work, bringing a new high-waisted trouser silhouette out in patent leather. There was nothing there to shock or make a statement, instead he chose to quietly say, “I’m back, and these are clothes women want to wear.” And he was right. Ghesquière’s Vuitton girl is cool, laid back, modern and fresh. She wears a lot of leather and suede (of course, they are the brand’s key fabrics), in clean lines with a slight retro feel. The very fact that he chose Freja Beha Erichsen to open the show set the tone immediately. There is no model who can better encapsulate that oh-so-awful word, cool. But here the word wasn’t awful. This isn’t the cool girl in school who everyone pretends to like whilst secretly despising them and their awful attitude, this is the inherently cool girl who is laid back, lovely, effortless and has that edge that we crave. It was mirrored in the beauty look too, or fact that there wasn’t one. She hadn’t quite rolled out of bed, but the models were naturally beautiful, no threatening eye make-up, no unattainable hair. Therein lies the key word: attainable. The collection was a quiet success because we were left wanting to be her and knowing that we can be. It’s hard to be the Anthony Vaccarello sex bomb or Rodarte princess, but you can walk out the house a Vuitton girl, and that’s something to be happy about.
There was no big finish to the show, no stand out piece to wrap it up, instead a collection of leather skirts, layered looks, Chelsea boots, polo necks (trend alert) and asymmetrical fabrics. At shows these days, designers create incredible fantasy worlds and stories and in some way it was refreshing to have just the clothes, and be shocked by simplicity, and not outrageousness. I’m all for innovation and creativity, but given the choice between the most incredible set for a disappointingly ugly collection and no set for a wearable collection, there’s a clear winner. Whilst some have been left a little disappointed, saying the collection was “nothing”, it’s hard to argue against a collection that is wearable, real and now. An understated start perhaps, but one that will no doubt go down a storm commercially.
Images from Style.com.