The Louis Vuitton Express – or more precisely a turn-of-the-20th-century steam train – pulled into Paris yesterday, bathed in ultraviolet light and filled with model passengers sporting creative director Marc Jacobs' new designs.
On this, the closing day of the international collections, they stepped out of their carriages and on to the platform, each with their own liveried porter in tow. Louis Vuitton – let's not forget – is the most famous purveyor of luxury luggage in the world and, with that clearly in mind, said smartly clad escorts carried jewelled holdalls in rare skins, hat boxes, cases and more to entirely glamorous effect.
If there was fairy-tale quality to the mise en scène which was, unquestionably, the most high-impact of the season, proportions and embroideries also whispered of magical bedtime stories – from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
A silhouette cut close to the body, high-waisted and then A-line, was indebted to Paul Poiret. It looked absolutely contemporary, however, due to the sharpness of cut. Camel tailoring – a pea-coat over a skirt that fell to mid-calf and cropped trousers, say – was as chic as it was pretty. Glittering daisy buttons the size of small saucers only added to an optimistic and idealised effect. Then came patchworked leather, sumptuous silk jacquards and brocades, tinselly tweeds, sparkly Lurex, metallic yarns and more, all finished with laser-cut stones.
Oversized, crushed cloche hats and breathtakingly beautiful, purposefully naive embroideries notwithstanding, there was a rigour too. This was a story that juxtaposed fantasy and sobriety, the understated and the ornate and it did so brilliantly.
It has been 15 years since Jacobs was appointed creative director of Louis Vuitton. Since that time he has ensured that the brand is celebrated as much for its fashion and, indeed, blockbuster shows as it always was for its monogrammed bags. Past glories have included a line-up of supermodel nurses, a hotel lobby complete with antique lift shafts and, of course, last season's merry-go-round. Guests left this most recent display wondering at the expense of it all. The powers-that-be at Louis Vuitton understand, though, that the twice yearly women's ready-to-wear collections provide a marketing opportunity – and show of power, par excellence – and, therefore, no expense is spared. To further celebrate Jacobs' anniversary, a retrospective at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile – Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton – opened in the evening: le tout Paris was there.
Louis Vuitton is owned by the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) and it is no coincidence that, earlier in the day, rival company PPR (Pinault Printemps Redoute) confirmed the appointment of Hedi Slimane as creative director of its most high-profile French label, Yves Saint Laurent.
Slimane takes over from Stefano Pilati who showed his swansong collection last Monday, ending a relationship that had lasted a decade. The move marks Slimane's return to Saint Laurent where he designed menswear to critical acclaim in the late 1990s. He left in 2000 and moved to Dior, where he continued to dress the likes of Pete Doherty, Mick Jagger and famously Karl Lagerfeld, who attributed his radical weight loss to a desire to fit into Slimane's signature skinny, androgynous tailoring. In recent years Slimane has worked as a photographer.