The rain had finally stopped in Paris. As always, Louis Vuitton was closing Fashion Month, and the heavens had shone favourably upon one of the most storied Houses in history with a clear sky. Tucked inside one of the Musée de Louvre’s formidable courtyards, a mighty glass structure had been erected in the Cour Carrée. Within it, tiers of pale blonde plywood on the ascent and a seemingly boundless runway of the same timber. Atop each row, a wooden placard detailing each attendees name; Madame, Monsieur and the like. Sourced entirely from sustainably managed forests in France (100% PEFC certified maritime pine wood from the Landes region), at the show’s end it was to be deconstructed and donated for reuse as part of a partnership with ArtStock, whose mission is to recycle and upcycle elements from artistic productions in order to preserve the environment. This in itself is symbolic of Nicolas Ghesquière’s great grasp on the future, one of the few classic fashion Houses to spotlight sustainably in this way. But it was in fact the past where Ghesquière paused for Spring Summer 2020, namely Paris’ defining Belle Époque era, proving the remarkable way he has his foot both in the past and the present.
Against a stirring, electrifying projection of the artist Sophie singing an extended version of “It’s Okay to Cry”, Ghesquière’s Vuitton girls circled back to the grand pleasures of sartorial protocol of the late 1800s, early 1900s. But this was a new breed of bourgeois, Ghesquière casting these bygone codes in a spectacularly modern light. Of course, the Art Nouveau flourishes were there – the painterly flowers, the puffy sleeves, the hair coiffed high in Pompadour poufs – but he hit refresh on the old classics with a little disco sparkle and saturated colour. Expressing dandyism through eclectic mash-ups of wild colour and print, it was as if the models had also stopped off in the ’60s, the ’70s and the ’80s, too, before making their way to the Louvre that night. Footwear came in the form of elevated, intricate penny loafers and knee-high platform boots, while the bags were equally spectacular; a purse with swirls of psychedelia, ornamental cases and monogram mix-tapes, the House’s signature monogram refashioned into the cassette tapes of old. And for a final touch of refinement, a cattleya orchid, which adorned each lapel like a chimerical symbol, marrying the collection together in one brilliant, sentimental gesture.
Bringing together the 20th century and the 21st century in a striking sartorial collage which made the little hairs on your arms prick with glee, if the standing ovation and shrieks of joy at the end were anything to go by, we’d think it were a success.
High on Ghesquière’s pure fashion fantasy (and the conclusion of a big month), as the crowd walked out, it began to pour. The rain lashed Louis Vuitton-clad show-goers, many of whom sought refuge (myself included) under the towering although largely redundant volutes of the Museum. A mighty gust of wind blew black umbrellas upwards towards the sky as squeals sounded around the museum grounds. The sky cracked with thunder. Drenched and sopping, it was a dramatic, very un-fashion-like finale to one of the most breathtaking shows of the season, but perhaps the untoward drama was fitting. At the end of the day, isn’t it nice to go out with a bang – rain, hail or thunder?