Nicolas Ghesquière: The man who asked Louis Vuitton's handbag makers to have a go at dresses

Louis Vuitton’s workers helped to create a new leather look, the designer tells Alexander Fury

“Aw, come here copycat. You’re my puppet. You know I love it.” So intoned the soundtrack to Nicolas Ghesquière’s autumn/winter 2014 Louis Vuitton show, his all-important debut for  the French luxury-goods behemoth in Paris.

Was it a wry dig at the backstreet bootleggers whose rip-off Vuitton bags are a multimillion-pound business in their own right? Or maybe at the rest of the fashion industry, which during his 15-year tenure at the house of Balenciaga consistently pecked over his work for plum ideas to enliven their own collections? There’s been something of a down mood this season, as if many designers were treading water. Or holding fire, waiting for Ghesquière’s next move.

He left Balenciaga in 2012, having established a contemporary template for the label (Alexander Wang is still running with it) and for himself as a designer. Fabric innovation, archival investigation and a touch of the sci-fi, the whole resulting in a retro-futuristic mix that vibrated, each season, with invention and energy... His first Vuitton show seemed to pick up where he left off chez Balenciaga, albeit on a different scale.

Backstage, Ghesquière talked the fashionable patter about Vuitton’s heritage and codes, but it was the new that he brought to the house that remained in the memory.

Inspirations? There weren’t really any. “What I tried to express was quite effortless,” explained Ghesquière, a slight and quintessentially French-looking man of 42 who seems perhaps a decade younger. “To be honest, it was a lot of work, but I wanted to approach it with an easiness. I didn’t want to do a theme or story, to be very thematic. I have this vision of Vuitton as multiple propositions. It’s definitely a wardrobe.”

There was, however, a vague 1970s inflection running through the show, from the high, stiff hemlines of zip-through A-line mini-dresses to the tightly sweatered torsos and hyper-high waisted trousers. Those bordered on the 1980s – another of Ghesquière’s favourite reference points – when worn with a wrapped, metal-embellished leather belt, while a single glistening gilt Vuitton gewgaw dangled from the models’ left earlobes.

 

Leather was, naturally, omnipresent, glistening on the opening thigh-high coat, later inset into skirts and dresses, spanning the waist or gleaming at the shoulder. “There is a lot of leather and a lot of metal – which obviously comes from the bags,” said Ghesquière. “I asked the leather goods atelier to develop some pieces of clothes, and that was new for them. Usually they do bags. It’s creating this transition between leather goods and ready-to-wear.”

Ready-to-wear is what Louis Vuitton offers – alongside lots and lots of bags. However, it was easy to forget that in the final few years of Marc Jacobs’ shows for the house, the clothes became increasingly archaic and fantastical to compete with the elaborate set pieces. Ghesquière seemed to be stating his point with equal force – albeit with less smoke and fewer mirrors. He’s ready to dress the world – and these eminently desirable designs should do just that.

If this Vuitton show lacked the glamour and drama of an elaborate set piece, or the jolt of some of Ghesquière’s earlier collections, where he reset our ideas of decoration and proportion, it certainly wasn’t short on experimentation.

“I ask people to do things they’re not used to doing,” said Ghesquière of the Vuitton craftspeople. “I play a little game – I ask the knitwear woman to think about fabric, and I did the same with the person who developed the fabric, to think about knit. There is a game in the collection… what is real, what is not real. But it’s subtle.”

Pushing people outside their comfort zones is a trademark of Ghesquière’s approach. Here, there was something slightly discombobulating in seeing him present ideas quietly, with such polish and commercial élan. A few, perhaps, were deflated. Look harder.

Ghesquière is clever, and his clothes are too. There’s more than immediately meets the eye, and they’re far more than just foils for bags. “Craftsmanship” and “functionality” were words he intoned again and again, as journalists descended to pick over the newest Vuitton name for sound bites.

However, one variation on that theme stood out: “It’s the human side of the craft that’s important.” The human behind Vuitton is, of course, Nicolas Ghesquière. And he is important.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss