Cruise To Nowhere?

Louis Vuitton is hopeful that people will be travelling and holidaying again. Its Cruise collection is suggesting that dressing up is part of the return to exploring the world for leisure. But are fashion folks thinking of vaccination or vacation?

We can always turn to fashion for hope. In a world fraught with fears that the next COVID virus mutation may be even more dangerous, fashion provides optimism that, in other parts of our life, isn’t so embraceable. Luxury brands call it the selling of fantasies, even dreams. And Louis Vuitton, with a history steep in travel, is offering at least the feeling, if not the assurance, that what we desire can soon be had or that the bad of the present will turn out for the best. As Nicolas Ghesquière told the media, “It’s a very optimistic, joyful collection”. The show notes expanded on that: “…proud, positive looks that advance straight ahead, serenely.” LV, under Mr Ghesquière’s watch, has mostly reflected a favourable view of the world around them—fashion makes the world go round, cross boundaries, cross eras. We don’t recall anything dark or sinister or dwelling in a gloomy place. It has been clothes to be seen in, and in which you’d wish to go somewhere.

But even LV isn’t really travelling, at least not to some far-flung locale typical of its Cruise collections. It is still shown in a monumental place, only now in their own homeland. This season, the show is staged in the relatively-un-known-outside-France attraction Axe Majeur (or Major Axis in English), in Cergy-Pontoise, a languid suburb northwest of Paris. Often described as “an architectural masterpiece”, the Axe Majeur is part outdoor sculpture museum and part urban walkway that may vaguely remind you—in spirit—of Henderson Waves. Designed in 1980 by the late Israeli artist Dani Karavan and the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, the Axe Majeur is huge; it is 3.2km long, and boasting a panoramic view of Paris (it is said you can even see La Défense). The show opens with a frame of the obelisk-like columns on one end of the installation and moves through with the models as they walk on a red pedestrian bridge held up by repeated frames, each looking like a minimalist take on the Japanese torii gateway, often found at the entrances of shrine compounds that mark the start of the sacred spaces.

This season is, as in the last, full of this and that—disparate elements that still beautifully come together, as if this has been the arrangement of the cosmos (there’s even an illustration that seems to suggest exploration of outer space). Mr Ghesquière’s LV output is so ideas-driven, they’re not easily absorbed in a moment or by the end of the show. The clothes do not only have the main body, but parts to them. This isn’t the splicing of one garment and adding another to it so that the final whole is matrimony of two—typical of the Japanese; this is a compositional exercise not unlike a pre-schooler playing with shapes—assembling and un-assembling them. And how they come together always provides the surprise and newness, even when the exercise itself has become quite the formula Mr Ghesquière has drawn up for LV. In this way, the seasons seem to flow from one to the next: an ongoing dialogue. Mr Ghesquière has conceived his own aesthetical timelessness.

Many pieces have the requisite It-ness to warrant a space in the already full wardrobes of fans. If LV were to organise another fashion show here, they would one more sell-well collection in their hands. We see attendees (with nowhere else to go) drawn to the waisted dresses with a draw-cord hem, gently pulled to create a slight bubble of a skirt; asymmetric tops with equally skewed placement of print; the band-leader jackets that Michael Jackson would have loved; the square-shouldered blouses, worn tucked into the rear waistband of skirts/pants; and those outers with sleeves that looked like they were moulded from Cathedral ceilings. It appears to us that for a cruise collection, these do not seem to be clothes that those who like to pack light could cheerily bring along—they would take up a lot of space, unless, of course, they’re packed in a Louis Vuitton trunk.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Louis Vuitton

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