Marc Jacobs pulled out all the stops for what is widely believed to be his final show for Louis Vuitton in Paris yesterday. As Uma Thurman watched from the front row, a twinkling, mirror-backed merry-go-round dominated the optic white set. Models enjoyed a privileged ride, some of then sitting on monogrammed cashmere blankets, before stepping on to the hexagonal catwalk. With crystal-studded tiaras in their hair and wearing fondant-coloured day suits, swing coats and cocktail dresses and silver Mary-Jane shoes, they looked pretty as a picture – like fairy-tale princesses one and all.
It is thought that LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) will announce that Jacobs, who was named creative director at Vuitton in 1997, is set to take over any day now at sister house Christian Dior as a replacement for John Galliano, who was dismissed in February. The advantage of the move for the designer would be that he would not only be responsible for ready-to-wear but also haute couture. Exclusive to Paris and the most rarefied fashion craft form for which each and every garment is hand-fitted, made, beaded, feathered and embroidered by the most accomplished seamstresses in the world, this is a big draw.
Louis Vuitton – which remains the jewel in the LVMH crown financially – is still predominantly known for luggage and accessories and has never been part of the haute couture schedule.
With that in mind, the fact this collection focussed on a quintessentially French sense of style and the most intricate workmanship did not go unnoticed. An ultra-light, plumped up silhouette stood away from the body resulting in a refined, elegant and always youthful appearance that was a million miles away from Jacobs' fetish-inspired current collection.
Layers of organza were appliquéd with embroidered jewel-embellished daisies or wrapped around broderie anglaise in a refined play on the transparent and the opaque.
The silhouette also spoke of the mid-20th century glory days of haute couture. Trapeze-line jackets and bell-shaped skirts referenced the work not only of Christian Dior himself but also the other masters, including Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel and Cristobal Balenciaga. Jacobs had updated all this. A pencil skirt sat more low on the waist than might be expected, for example, and was not fitted to the point where its wearer might have movement restricted.
Jacobs is one of very few working in the industry today with the breadth of vision necessary to build a brand way beyond the creation of clothes. Of course, there were money-spinning accessories: pale crocodile bowling bags, pretty oval purses that matched the clothes and, destined to be the big Louis Vuitton hit for next summer, a jelly bag crafted not in plastic, but the finest of leather – a typically witty and irreverent twist.
Kate Moss walked Jacobs' runway for the first time in almost a decade six months ago and was honoured with the finale again. She looked lovely – and uncharacteristically innocent – in a sequinned, feathered, broderie anglaise white powder puff of a dress.
For his part, Jacobs took his bows also dressed in optimistic white. He is right to be happy. He is probably the most wanted man in fashion just now – and with very good reason.
Miu Miu Brings paris to a fitting conclusion
Later in the day Miuccia Prada, also a major fashion force, was the last big name to take to the Paris catwalk with her spring/summer collection for Miu Miu. The designer showed Prada in her hometown, Milan, last month but the coquettish spirit of the former label is well-suited to the French fashion capital. On typically contrary – and brilliant – form this provocative designer took the sweet couture looks that have swept the international catwalks and turned them on their head. Models with hair reminiscent of Carrie's post breakdown and fierce blood-red gashes of make-up over their eyes stomped down the runway swinging dolly bags. They wore mismatched shapes and prints, dour colours and boots inlaid with roses with witchy pointed toes. Over and above saccharine sweet this looked freakishly cute and all the better for that.