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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
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: Tax Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Progressive practice, punching ...

    Recruitment Genius: Ruby On Rails Developer

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This an exciting opportunity to...

    Recruitment Genius: Lift Engineer

    £28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Lift Engineer is required to jo...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible