Nicolas Ghesquière’s Parisian circle inspires a French look without nostalgia
“The women who surround me, they make my aesthetic,” said Nicolas Ghesquière, standing between Catherine Deneuve and Jean Paul Gaultier as the backstage crowd gazed at the transparent tent at the heart of the Louvre.
Perhaps the mighty Louis Vuitton is the only luxury brand that would dare to suggest its designer face off carved stone wild boars and wolves while models walked up the stone stairway, covered in patterned carpet.
The set divided between historical grandeur and the starkly modern. But Ghesquière seems to have hit his pace, replacing last season’s lavish 18th-century outfits linked with sporty elements and bringing the Autumn/Winter 2018 collection closer to home – which means Paris.
“Quintessentially French, but without any nostalgia,” was the designer’s definition of pieces that often added a V-neck camisole to a simple wool dress, as though the essentially Parisian garments needed a lift of either history or modernity. An example might be a rounded white truncated cape, covering just the shoulders over a floral top. Below came the slim, straight skirt, still so beloved by the bourgeoisie, including Madame Brigitte Macron, wife of the French president.
The story was also in the shoes: polite-looking, with medium heels and a criss-cross front. The bags, often mysteriously carried sideways, rather than straight on, were clutched firmly under the arm.
The bourgeoisie have had a tough time this millenium, when oversize clothes and sloppy sportswear have invaded the smartest events. The Vuitton shapes were trim and tidy, often with a variation at the top or shown in a deep corset.
Michael Burke, Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO, described the collection well when he said, “Last time Nicolas did the 18th century with trainers; this time, he did 18th century with shoes.”
But was that enough to fill the grandiose Vuitton boutiques across the world or attain the visual wonder of the gold sun spreading its rays across the Place Vendôme when their central Paris store opened last year?
That kind of opulence is appearing in various fashion houses in very different ways for autumn 2018, from Balmain’s glitter through Thom Browne’s historicism and Valentino’s grace.
Louis Vuitton, with its business built on accessories, as with many other brands, seems to be missing that decisive statement about what the fashion side of the company stands for.
“It’s the legacy of people who built my taste and informed my choices, plus the span in time and the dialogue between East and West,” Ghesquière said. But the collection was not quite powerful enough to overpower the wild beasts on display.