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

Trotter Trots On

Louise Trotter@Lacoste.jpg

We have always been partial to Joseph under creative director Louis Trotter’s watch. We learnt that she had left the British brand around the same time we were told of the closure of Singapore’s only Joseph store (at the ill-fated Capitol Piazza), in early August: two pieces of bad news. Now with reports that she has joined Lacoste, things are looking up, not only for those of us who have enjoyed Ms Trotter’s work, but also for the Swiss-owned French brand Lacoste, somewhat languishing under Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who succeeded Christophe Lemaire in 2010.

Miss Trotter may seem like an odd choice for Lacoste, given her latterly not-too-commercial work for Joseph, but she had been at sportswear-oriented Gap and Hilfiger before, as well as the British high street label Jigsaw. Joseph, founded by one-time hairdresser Joseph Ettedgui, was initially a multi-label store before it branched into the highly successful knitwear line Joseph Tricot. When Ms Trotter came on board in 2009 from Jigsaw, she immediately positioned Joseph’s ready-to-wear as a wearable, several-notches-above-basic label that moved towards the fashion-forward, but not in an alienating way. This came a year after Phoebe Philo’s appointment at Céline, allowing Joseph to move in tandem with the French brand’s aesthetic that was clearly coming on apace.

Ms Trotter kept to Joseph’s reputation for championing young designers by infusing a youthful vibe into clothes that have always been associated with the British wardrobe, such as the trench coat and the fisherman jumper. She’s not shy of extreme proportions, pairing boxy jackets with wide-legged pants, nor of eye-catching details, such as pleated ruffs, oversized pilgrim collars, and pockets large enough to house an iPad. Her solid hand with shapes and an eye for the unusual will be advantageous in restoring Lacoste the edge it had lost with the departure of Mr Lemaire. The alligator needs a new keeper.

Photo: Cyril Masson/Lacoste

London Continues To Charm

Brexit looms, but the Brits are showing that creativity has not left the fold

christopher-kane-aw-2017Christopher Kane

The just-concluded London Fashion Week isn’t like New York Fashion Week: boring. The city, like New York, is where many designers—not necessarily from London—feel the creative pull. Yet, unlike the Big Apple, London designers aren’t attached to a certain English aesthetic the way US designers are stuck to American sportswear, including those designers in the east coast—if the reported rise of Los Angeles is to be believed. The English are more freewheeling that way, allowing the city’s plurality of culture to inform their design directions. They are not wedded to predictability.

Indeed, London designers are not hung up about adhering to a certain English look. Although Burberry’s Christopher Bailey paid homage to English sculptor Henry Moore, the collection is far from depicting a certain English ideal. Many London designers do not appear shackled by the need to keep the flame of Englishness alive. Indeed what is English today isn’t quite the same as what it was in the Sixties, when London was called “swinging” and positioned as the centre of the “youth quake” of that era. Sure, there’s always the influence of the past—royalty, Victoriana, punk, the New Wave, the Scottish Highlands, the old garbs of fishing folks of the bleak coasts—but English designers tend to look ahead, drawing from urban miscellany to forge a more progressive whole.

j-w-anderson-aw-2017J. W. Anderson

You don’t get British designers revisiting to death Mary Quant or Biba, but you do see American designers returning to Studio 54 time and time again, as if the ’70s can never be left behind, as if the Battle of Versailles was not proof enough that American designers are able to march to a new beat. That the past may influence the present is understandable. Some of Britain’s great designers, such as the late Alexander McQueen, drew heavily from what went way before. The past is, however, a platform to springboard to the future, or, at least, delineate the present.

That was what we sensed at Christopher Kane this season. There’s something vaguely and deliciously old-fashioned about the collection. Mr Kane is not, of course, a trad lad, but his approach to designing seems born of dressmaking of the past. Still, there is none of the British frumpiness, or maybe there is, just cleverly subverted with spiffy cuts and shiny fabrics. We like his flattering, feminine silhouettes too, within which he makes his magic. That’s where his unpredictability lies. Contained in near-conventional forms, Mr Kane incorporates fold, tucks, and slits within. The look isn’t wayward, yet there’s something unusual about it. Appealing, too.


Similarly, J. W. Anderson, created some rather compelling clothes. While media eyes are mainly on his work for the Spanish house Loewe, fans are keeping a close watch on the developments at his eponymous label. Mr Anderson is not terribly concerned with Britishness, but he is adept at reaching into the mixed bag that is modern-day England and pulling out quite a remarkable jumble. It’s not easy to pin-point the typical J. W. Anderson silhouette, but that’s precisely why his work is so beguiling. His autumn/winter 2017 collection shows draping, asymmetry, and gently puffed-up shapes, and in-between, something plucked from Qing China.

One of the London collections that made us re-focus on the line is Erdem. This is supremely feminine, not something we normally would pay close attention to, but Erdem Moralioglu has created a smashing output based on so many desirable dresses that are, to us, post-Duchess of Cambridge. There is a certain artistic aspect to the way he mixes fabrics and prints, all the while keeping the silhouettes rather controlled—not-too-princess-friendly. We were thinking that if ever (and, really, just if) Pierpaolo Piccioli should ponder leaving Valentino, Erdem Moralioglu should be considered for the job.


Throughout much of London Fashion Week, under-appreciated English labels are doing more interesting work than over-exposed American names across the Atlantic. One that deserves a bigger audience is Joseph. Although once a fairly conventional brand, Joseph has, under the stewardship of Louise Trotter, steadily evolved into a line that straddles confidently between sophistication and edginess. Ms Trotter does not shy from unconventional shapes, nor quirky details that give her designs character. We appreciate her pairing of prints, placement of pockets, and the push-pull of masculinity and femininity. It’s the creative tension that gently tips her work outside basic. It gives you reason to make space in the wardrobe.

British designers are re-defining femininity without having to underscore it. In fact, it is heartening to see them not succumb to the commercial appeal of the fit-and-flair dress shape that many of today’s women cannot seem to break away from. Constant is their exploration of the spatial relationship between fabric and the body, so that the basis of the silhouettes is not the hourglass shape, or a figure that adhere to the vulgar sexiness consistent with those frequently witnessed on social media. These are not clothes to show off Victoria’s Secret underclothes. For that reason, we’re keeping our eyes on London.