Nicolas Ghesquiere is only 46 years old, and yet he is possibly one of the most influential and capable fashion designers around. I couldn’t help but grasp the smarts of his plan and blueprint for the fashion at Louis Vuitton while watching the Fall/Winter 2018 collection. As is the standard now with Vuitton collections, there was a retro-futuristic spirit running strong – a fascination of Ghesquiere’s that deftly molds 70s and 80s beat shapes with hyper modern fabrications and sporty cuts. It’s a method that made his Balenciaga so dually reverential to the past and forward looking to the future and it’s a method that’s proven itself just as well at Vuitton. Though with this brand, there isn’t much of a fashion archive to look back upon – Marc Jacobs’ was an invention from scratch as well.
And so we must now assess this collection, set in the court of the Louvre museum on a spaceship-styled stage that cut into the classical architecture of the Cour Lefuel’s horseshoe staircase. The models walked down stone steps built in the 1850s and onto a platform that resembled the kinds of corridors and walkways we’ve come to associate with spaceships and other spacefaring sci-fi vehicles. It wasn’t subtle in espousing old meets new, and it demonstrated strongly the intent and approach of the designer.
But with the clothes themselves, there wasn’t much of a loud statement. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad thing. Rather, I’m of the belief that a truly confident, assured and able designer can say the most with the least. Think of Saint Laurent’s liberation of women’s styles: pantsuits, safari jackets and all – they were simple and small in scale but powerful enough to make you desire. This is precisely what Ghesquiere has achieved, though with some obvious planning. The kinds of silhouettes he showed on the runway were hyper-refined versions of what he’s been producing since he first debuted at Louis Vuitton in 2013. That 70s on-the-road girl spliced with skirts more mademoiselle, else paired with gently flared trousers – a Ghesquiere signature in and of itself.
The truth is, no one cuts pants quite like Nicolas Ghesqueire does. His skinny fits at Balenciaga are stuff of fashion legend, and at Vuitton he too has quietly but certainly defined a line. Gently fitted with an athletic bend not unlike that of an equestrian rider, but flared too with the go-go-go spirit of 70s free spirits. Old and new, the present and the future, Ghesquiere has it nailed down to a pair of legs in fabric.
But that’s besides the larger point: which is that this collection was in and of itself nothing particularly new. We’ve seen the silky sweatshirts with sportif details, lurex textured body-hugging knits, anime colour-blocking, the mix of feminine draping with sporty cut outs, etc. It’s all been done before in his previous collections. The defining thing here is seeing it all remixed and remastered in a way that clicked like it never had before.
Now you realise that when he took the job, when he proposed to Bernard Arnault the idea of a ‘wardrobe’ versus seasonal trends, that this must have been planned. Certainly not to the extent that he would know that this collection would look like this in 2018, but I’m sure there was a road map. The journey was important, yes, but seeing the hint of a destination gave me the kind of thrill not unlike solving a puzzle. The pieces fit into place, and you got a better view of the whole picture.
Anyway, this also made me think about what’s now being called the School of Ghesquiere. That is, the designers Julien Dossena and Natacha Ramsey-Levi of Paco Rabanne and Chloe, respectively. These two designers came from working closely with Ghesquiere while he was with Balenciaga and then Vuitton, and their successes this season was interesting. Ghesquiere was there at both of their shows, and though they played up very convincing and very strong versions of this same school of thought, you couldn’t help but think that the master was firmly on top. Sitting as the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton – one of the world’s biggest brands, never mind within fashion – you got the real sense that this wasn’t a designer who had to prove himself any longer, the man had (proverbially) made it.
Sometimes I wonder if his immense talent is wasted at Louis Vuitton, where the clothes are secondary to the bags, accessories and other products that serve common aspiration as much as they do an immense business. The people – that is, the majority of folks who don’t bother keeping up with the fashion week collections – look at Louis Vuitton and see, most probably, its bags and luggage as a sign of success, of making it. Not so much with designer clothing. There is such a weird disconnect between the willingness to spend on an accessory versus clothes, though it must be said the Vuitton fashion prices are quite high but not out of the ordinary for either its position or creative worth. Surely, the fashion contributes to it all, but one has to wonder if it’s worth spending these ideas and creativity just to essentially push bags.
That said, the collection was simply fabulous. And it perhaps doesn’t matter so much if it receives the recognition it deserves, because more importantly, Ghesquiere has sired creative progeny. If not directly in Dossena and Ramsey-Levi, then just as importantly in the many young designers and brands who often look up to the man’s work as inspiration and reference. That is the kind of marker of success that has to earn itself – price squarely unavailable and implacable.