Nicolas Ghesquiere has done it again. No exclamation point needed, because this collection already has ALL the excitement.
In his second collection for Louis Vuitton, Mr. Ghesquiere again pushes to differentiate himself from the overwhelming shadow of outgoing creative director, Marc Jacobs. This isn’t an easy task- especially when your predecessor is a vanguard in the world of fashion, but Mr. Ghesquiere is quickly proving himself to be the perfect replacement.
This is a seminal moment for both the label and its head designer- this is Vuitton’s first ever Cruise Collection Runway show, as well as the first Cruise Collection designed by the brand’s head designer. Marc Jacob never designed the Resort Collections- Julie de Libran, the former head of Vuitton womenswear and new creative director of the house of Sonia Rykel was responsible for all that Cruise glamour.
This Collection’s Show sought to re-energize the consumers’ interest in the brand and marks a huge shift in strategy and position for Louis Vuitton. Cruise collections are arguably the most commercially successful productions released by fashion houses worldwide. Micheal Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton has confirmed this, saying, “Cruise is our most important collection…It’s everybody’s biggest collection.”
Cruise collections are also known as “Resort” or “Pre-” Collections (the latter being the most accurate description), and are presented between the traditional spring/summer and fall/winter productions. Originally, Cruise collections were used by designers to provide wealthy clients with simple attire for holiday wear during the winter months, and were an effective way to showcase previews (or ‘prequels’) of the upcoming spring/summer wares. Therefore, holiday staples like kaftans, light dresses, pants, shorts and sexy summer shoes are mainstays of the Resort runways… which themselves tend to be flirty and luxurious.
In recent years, Cruise Collections have become the industry’s biggest best-sellers; hence Louis Vuitton’s decision to fly a huge number of press and celebrities to attend the show in Monaco. Online streams also accommodated digital guests, allowing for the perfect opportunity for the brand to present itself outside of the hectic setups of the industry’s traditional Fashion Weeks.
By allowing the house of Louis Vuitton to expand it’s horizons beyond conventional margins, the directors are effectively spreading the significance of the brand beyond it’s already huge influence. This Cruise Collection Show was not only an event to push Vuitton’s ready-to-wear line, it was an opportunity to promote the magic and might behind the world’s largest luxury brand, while showcasing the talent of arguably one of the most discussed head designers in the world. Overall, Louis Vuitton pulled off a genius marketing move and did it with perfect flair.
Recently, Cruise Collection Shows have taken place in locations away from fashion’s conventional capitals: New York, Paris and Milan. Instead, locations such as Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, the United Arab Emirates have hosted presentations from top houses, and this Louis Vuitton Show in Monaco was no exception to the trend of avant-garde locales. As I said, genius marketing move!
Monaco. The name exudes luxury, power and glam-our (read that in Catherine Deneuve’s voice) like almost no other. A place of celebrity and a holiday lifestyle that few enjoy, but so many strive for. Monaco is also very much in the limelight at this moment as the Cannes film festival is taking place a little way down the coast, and Formula One’s Grand Prix of Monaco is set to take place in a few days in the city-state itself. The world is watching, and Nicolas Ghesquiere with Vuitton, took full advantage of this opportunity.
The Show took place in a custom-designed venue within the Palais Princier, and was attended by a star-studded guest list, including none other than the Crown Prince and Princess of Monaco: His Highness Prince Albert and Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene.
The guests were seated in an enormous class cube, specially made for the event and set up in the Palace Square. When the show began, huge motorized curtains unfurled around the venue, blocking out all view of the outside, while models took to the lighted glass catwalk. Drama!!
Water and the subterranean world were definitely major themes in this collection, beginning with the setup of the aforementioned-glass catwalk, below which a film by French video artist Ange Leccia, showing water flowing over pebbles and rocks was shown. The clothes themselves resembled the movement of water: many were constructed of flowing material, streamlined at the waist while seeming to undulate around the limbs, very much like the ebb and flow of sea waves.
From there the theme evolved to include details such as fabrics patterned to resemble seaweed and sea urchins, while frothy lace trimming and beaded patterns brought to mind coral branches and crustaceans. Shirts and jackets were banded in sturdy leather to resemble wetsuits and nautical details such as heavy industrial zippers, large snaps and embroidery-lined “portholes” opening onto bare skin were seen throughout the collection.
Mr. Ghesquiere’s use of varying textures is something to be seen! Sheer fabrics, delicate lacework, intricate knitwear and exquisite embroidery and beadwork were layered with smooth leather, heavily inlaid silks and quilted fabrics.
Then there were the prints! Bold, bright and vintage inspired, they are meant to resemble underwater life, mimicking the forms of seaweed, coral, sea blossoms and sea urchins. To me, they recall the fabulous prints used by Emilio Pucci throughout the 1960s and 70s, and of Valentino’s more recent F/w 2014 mod-inspired prints.
Combined and executed in his subtle manner, Mr. Ghesquiere sent a diverse collection down the runway. Notable pieces included sleek trouser suits, fussy skirts, embellished blouses, lacy camisoles, deconstructed jackets and long trench coats.
Continuing with the flow of the collection, Mr. Ghesquiere showed new trends in the house’s accessories collection, including strappy Wellington-inspired gladiator sandles, patterned espadrilles, ‘Mary-Jane’ heels with oversized button snaps, goggle-inspired sunglasses, pointy flats, sea-urchin belts, a re-worked version of the Petite Malle box clutch and a new version of the bucket bag!
My favourite items are the banded blouses, the patterned gladiator sandals and bright leather trench coats- oh and the black and white version of the Petite Malle! I also like the “porthole” blouses, especially the sea-weed patterned one! I’m actually thinking its a perfect addition to my wardrobe for a Saint Barth’s weekend regatta!
Nicolas Ghesquiere drew upon the same 1970’s silhouettes that dominated his Fall/winter collection and incorporated new elements (such as inlaid textiles, fabulous prints and embellishments) and fresh styling to make this a truly noteworthy Cruise Collection. In less skilled hands, this collection could have been overly kitschy or gimmicky, but Mr. Ghesquiere’s commanding talent and deft control elevated this simple inspiration into something dazzlingly sublime.
With this show, Louis Vuitton has elevated the whole “Cruise 2014” season entirely. Nicolas Ghesquiere didn’t just show resort wear, he showed fashion resort wear: clothes that incorporate all the elements of traditional prêt-à-porter, combined with the luxurious details of haute couture, and yet are still relaxed enough to be worn whilst on holiday. In short, resort fashion with all the painstaking hallmarks of the very best of the fashion industry.
Nicolas Ghesquiere has shown us how Cruise should and hopefully will be done in future years. No wonder he has been a leading talent in the industry for almost twenty years!