The Strange Swagger

Louis Vuitton isn’t afraid of embracing the fantastic or the offbeat for the cruise season

While most luxury houses choose to make the cruise season their most commercial, releasing items that are conceived to sell in large numbers, Louis Vuitton has preferred to defy even the category itself. Like most brands with deep pockets, LV chose to show outside of Paris—in Italy, in fact, specifically on the island of Isola Bella (beautiful island in Italian), a small land mass punctuating Lake Maggiore, near Stresa, Northern Italy. The grounds are palatial, with includes a palazzo and an Italianate garden, and could easily be a stop on a series of itineraries of an actual cruise, the clothes Nicolas Ghesquière presented happily resisted the immediate connection with anything done/enjoyed onboard a ship or the activities between different ports of call. It is hard to imagine anyone packing for a holiday and asking for the what-you-might-call-it, rather than, say, silk slacks. And therein lies the infinite charm of the pieces, even if weird might not be an exaggeration when used to describe the 50 looks.

The show, LV’s first in Italy, was supposed to be livestreamed, but, as it turned out, was not. It rained, so LV used a recording of an earlier version that was—overlook the pun—a dry run. Unlike a particular show in Mexico City, guests in the island did not see what the rest of us in front of our screens saw; they were moved indoors—inside the palazzo, but, by most social media accounts, the show was spectacular even when the clothes were thought to be better represented if seen amid the garden, with the peripheral sea in the distance a gleaming halo. Perhaps, the models thought they were walking in a rehearsal and did not look particularly like otherworldly creatures from some sea kingdom—like Neptune’s nymphs, perhaps. The aquatic theme that Mr Ghesquière intended was still in tact, although with a whiff of cosplay. Attendees at Aquaman’s riparian birthday party?

The thing is, it’s hard to accurately describe what Mr Ghesquière has designed when his work is conceived to be indiscripable. Or, at least, to defy simple straightforward description since everything shown was clearly not so plain-dealing. Back to the under-sea references, there was a sense that the looks were what Ariel would have adopted after her successful deal with the sea witch and a meeting with a fantasist-designer born on land but longing for life in the sea. Was it a coincidence that Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid is due to hit the cinemas very soon? It is doubtful that Mr Ghesquière would design a collection to coincide with the film-release schedules of Mickey Mouse’s parent company (or Ron DeSantis’s nemesis!), even when he was quoted in the media for being attracted to the Italian lake and the “fairy-tale creatures”, which to him could be “mythological lake mermaids with dragon wings”. Something that Peter Jackson would understand and can visualise, too?

When personified, those mermaids don scuba-wear-gone-rogue, even one turned into a babydoll dress with a drawstring neckline. Others were technical fabrics in fascinating prints that were a melange of patterns evocative of the sea or seaside. When scuba wear was obvious, it was tempered with ruff-like collars mimicking seashells and, on bodices, incredible decorative touches that looked like droplets of water. There were also the roughly and vertically gathered fabrics to form strapless shifts or those dresses with draped neckline that could be from the wardrobe of the goddesses of Atlantis (those majestic headwear!). And the quilted tops in the shape of scallop shells, too, were awash with potential and were a definite lure. But perhaps most astounding were the last seven evening gowns. With their lightness and the sea foam texture, they looked like they were birthed in the waters that lapped on the shores of Isola Bella. When Nicolas Ghesquière described the show venue as magical, he was talking about the clothes too.

Screen shot and photos: Louis Vuitton

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