Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week review: Lots of slithery, slippery skins

 

It’s fitting that Nicolas Ghesquiere’s collections for Louis Vuitton start the end of each Paris fashion week (namely, the 10am slot on the final day), given that not only many of this city’s shows, but much of the season as a whole, has been stamped with his aesthetic and ideological imprint.

Aesthetic in that we’ve seen plenty of seventies echoes, much patchwork, lots of slithery, slippery skins; ideological in that Ghesquiere’s ethos of real clothes for real women, his definitive (occasionally relentless) focus on a short silhouette, and daywear proposals in place of evening razzle-dazzle, has permeated most designer’s mindsets. “This is a silhouette, this is a look,” stated Ghesquiere after his debut last March. “It has to be an entire silhouette, an entire proposition for a woman.” How right he was. And how right it’s looked.

Where Ghesquiere leads, others follow. That much has been proved time and time again, both in his previous tenure at Balenciaga and since his first Louis Vuitton presentation a year ago. What’s the next step, after three shows (including last May’s pre-spring offering) that have refined and reiterated the emphatic and influential silhouette of chopped skirt, high torso and boxy little bag Ghesquiere has, if not originated, at least claimed as his own? A change.

 

That was evident from the start, an elongated, bulky sheepskin coat that exploded that now-prevalent suctioned-in seventies outline. But this time, that wasn’t the only offering - Ghesquiere’s short stuff emerged again, as did a sinuous knee-length series of macro-rib knits and a ruched shoulder on fitted bodices and jackets that paid simultaneous dues to the 1890s and 1980s. He talked about a collection as a  “journey”, a nice linguistic tie-in to the luxury luggage background of Louis Vuitton, but conceptually a bit shaky. A journey through your wardrobe, maybe - from day to evening, from full to slender, long to short, lingerie-look slip-dresses to glitter-pressed trompe l’oeil tweeds and sequins, with plenty of baggage in tow (heavy-duty quilted metal boxes, a studded, squishy clutch, the hard-edged micro-trunk they dubbed the Petite Malle).

This Vuitton collection was perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to the single-minded proposition of Ghesquiere’s opening year for the house. There’s something perverse about that as if, having cemented an unmistakable foundation for his Vuitton, Ghesquiere was now eager to tear it apart and find something new.

That’s a journey in itself: an exploration of fresh territories. Sounds quite Vuitton - you’d need a trunk full of clothes for a trip like that.

Rather than the singular silhouette imprinted in your mind from Ghesquiere’s previous Vuitton collections, what each viewer took away from this collection depended on his or her outlook, and personal tastes. Perhaps it was the tubular, curly-hemmed knits, or those pillowy shearling coats, or the wool or duchesse-satin trouser suits with drawstring waists. Maybe just the low-heeled, studded shoes, or those very many variations on the handbag.

There was something freeing about that, about Ghesquiere no longer dictating an entire, specific silhouette, and rather allowing viewers to grab items from his idealised wardrobe, depending on their own journey requirements.

It felt confident, and modern. Because women don’t dress head-to-toe in a single designer, unless they’re fashion plates, or fashion victims. That kind of look doesn’t have a root in reality, which is what Ghesquiere wants most of all from his Louis Vuitton. If he sees his collections as journeys, this felt like a trip worth taking: a journey from catwalk to pavement. And probably to many women's wardrobes too. Back to life, back to reality.

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