Nicolas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton is the last show of the Spring 2020 season, not just the culmination of a four-week trip across as many cities, but the beginning of a new decade. What did it tell us about where fashion is now and where it might go in the years ahead?
Ghesquière has always had one foot in the future—few designers of the 21st century have been more influential—but his work at Louis Vuitton is deeply linked to the past. Last season he sent us to the pre-Internet 1980s of Beaubourg. Scroll back a few more seasons and he was linking 18th century frock coats and springy sneakers. This season, Ghesquière said he set the time machine to Belle Époque-era Paris.
“It’s a part of French history that’s very interesting in art, as well as culturally, in terms of emancipation of women, and, of course, in literature with Proust,” he explained. It’s also a period that more or less coincided with the birth and rise of the house of Louis Vuitton. In the late 1800s, advances in construction and technology ushered in a new era of travel for the elite, to whom Monsieur Vuitton and his descendants catered with their monogram trunks.
The Belle Époque references were many: the pouf sleeves of shirts; the iris boutonnières, each one different; the Gibson girl hairdos, and all the Art Nouveau touches, from the proto-psychedelic swirls of a green jacquard coat to the painterly flowers on a trio of simple dresses to a terrific little leather jacket hand-painted with angelic faces. All that was missing were the panniers (funnily enough, those have been trending on other runways this season). Those less familiar with French history might’ve seen references to ’70s Biba, or even nods to Ghesquière’s own archive—the time machine is spinning ever faster. A famous French person—not Proust—once said, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Ghesquière seemed to be getting at something along those lines with the VHS bag that opened the show and the monogram totes decorated with stacks of old tapes whose names had been tweaked. The Terminator became The Trunkinator, and Thelma and Louise became Gaston and Louis (Gaston-Louis Vuitton being the third generation head of the company). Louis’ Excellent Adventure was, bien sûr, a riff on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You can see where this is going. The clever time tripping provoked an animated discussion as guests made their way out of the show’s sustainably sourced plywood set through the centuries-old Cour Carrée, and past IM Pei’s famous 20th century glass pyramid which, of course, glances back to Egypt’s, built about 5,000 years ago. Time, someone argued, is just perception. Where is fashion headed in the 2020s? Ghesquière knows. It’ll be much the same and completely different.
Photos are courtesy of Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com