Paris, the Louvre’s Passage Richelieu was adorned with dozens of antique chandeliers. They were gathered over a long period of time, laying the groundwork for what Nicolas Ghesquière described in his press notes as a “grand bal of time.” Ghesquière has been fascinated by the concept of time and how fashion intersects with it and doubles back at Louis Vuitton. He’s a master at combining references and juxtaposing unexpected elements to create something new. With the company celebrating the 200th birthday of the house’s founder—there will be activations all over the world throughout the year—Ghesquière had another reason to bring up the subject.
According to company legend, Louis Vuitton used the Passage Richelieu for meetings with Empress Eugénie, for whom he was the exclusive trunk maker. The panniered silhouettes of this show’s first few looks may have been familiar to Eugénie. The sumptuous, elaborately embellished gowns were girded at the hips in the 19th-century style, but instead of being weighed down by underskirts, Ghesquière’s gowns bounced as the models walked down the runway in open-toe satin wrestling boots.
With their finely beaded headpieces and art nouveau sunglasses, these looks were reminiscent of Paul Poiret and Erté. Only, neither Poiret nor Erté would have encountered denim, and even if they had, they would never have paired a beaded bias-cut slip dress with jeans, or cut a jean jacket in the proportions of a tailcoat. That’s the time-traveling touch of Ghesquière.
The overabundance of capes stems from another thread in Ghesquière’s story this season: he designed Alicia Vikander’s costumes for the upcoming HBO Max series, Irma Vep, from Olivier Assayas. According to HBO, the show “reveals the perilous ground that lies at the intersection of fiction and reality, artifice and authenticity, art and life.”