Big On Details

Literally. Louis Vuitton shows size in unexpected ways. And impractical too?

Louis Vuitton closes PFW with a flashy purpose-built set in the Cour Carrée by the French visual artist Philippe Parreno. He and the Hollywood production designer James Chinlund (The Lion King and the upcoming The Batman) have built an installation in the courtyard in the Louvre Palace that looks like a giant rosette made of red sails. Nicholas Ghesquière describes it to the media as “kind of a flower, a carnival flower”. The sheltered runway encircles the strange bloom, with the models emerging from the middle and down a ramp. It is huge and is impressive as a pavilion in a World Expo might be. This is the fanciest set seen in Paris this season, rivalled, conversely, by Balenciaga’s also-artist-created mass (and mess) of mud, both no doubt profoundly costly to set up.

These past fashion weeks, mad as some of the shows were, do not seem to comport with what is happening outside of the annual circus. The UN very recently warned the world that rich nations may spark a global recession with their aggressive monetary policies that “could inflict worse damage than the financial crisis in 2008”. Add to that, the ongoing war in Ukraine, unrelenting inflation, spiking interest rates, and we have the global economy teetering on the brink of recession. And perhaps Louis Vuitton is hinting at how big the downturn might be, even if it is possible luxury labels won’t be that badly affected. Nicholas Ghesquière has not retained the still prevalent upsized silhouettes for LV, as others designers continued to have, but he sure has made large—startlingly and comically—what should normally be discreet: fastenings and hardware.

While Kanye West has declared the omission of zips, buttons, and hardware in his clothes for Yeezy, Mr Ghesquière has gone the opposite way, only that he made sure you won’t miss those zips, buttons, and hardware. What would normally not be noticed are now fasteners begging to be looked at. The buttons are the size of Famous Amos’s soft cookie. The zippers are not hidden (no discreet YKKs!) and come with wide tapes, massive teeth, huge sliders and even larger pull tabs, and as a pair, if they’re two-way fasteners. Little Red Riding Hood would have been duly impressed, and cried out, “What big zippers you have!” And there are those hardware, normally used on bags—these are made chunky too: swivel clips and D-rings, in striking gold no less. Utilitarian turns decorative. But, could a large zipper pull tab under the arm (as seen on a dress with side opening) be comfortable? Forgive our vulgar consideration for comfort. Could these clothes be cleaned in a washing machine without scratching the drum? Forgive our prosaic approach to laundering!

Then there are the blow-up (we think they’re filled with air, rather than down) add-ons that mimic airplane neck pillows, but also found on hips. Or, those framing the neck that look like tubular swim floats (actual ones were used at Moschino). Mr Ghesquière has pulled away from the synthesis of historicism for the paste-up of the usually unromantic components of dressmaking—the trims, and the effect is both quirky and quixotic. Which again magnifies his compositional skill of combining unlikely shapes, pairing uncommon textures, and tweaking unexpected proportions, all within recognisable clothing forms. This season in Paris, two unremarkable garments are poised for posterity—a spray-on dress with the design finesse of anything you’d find in Mango and a T-shirt with a slogan deemed inappropriate and offensive. Despite Nicholas Ghesquière’s notable efforts, his complex and astonishing designs would not top the lasting, viral glory of those two.

Screen shot (top): Louis Vuitton/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com

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