The Paris rumor mill has been in overdrive since news broke that Louis Vuitton has taken possession of a mammoth building on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées that was previously earmarked for Dior’s new headquarters.
Speculation has centered around the prospect of the world’s largest luxury brand opening its first hotel in the Art Nouveau style building, after previously touting a similar project at its headquarters next to the Pont Neuf.
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On Monday, Nicolas Ghesquière shed some light on the plans by taking over the construction site for his spring women’s fashion show. Sitting on a sleek Andrée Putman sofa that contrasted with the rough walls of his temporary dressing room, he revealed it would be a hybrid space including a store, a cultural venue and a hotel, to be designed by architect Peter Marino.
“It’s hard to put a label on this space because it will be a place that reunites all the expressions of Vuitton: cultural, artistic, commercial, obviously, but also hospitality. It’s part of the role of major luxury brands today to entertain in every sense of the word,” the label’s creative director of womenswear told WWD.
Ghesquière has a penchant for the rawness of buildings under renovation, having staged Vuitton shows at the Samaritaine Paris department store and Vuitton’s Place Vendôme flagship store while they were still construction sites.
Fittingly, the Champs-Élysées building was originally a hotel, the Élysée Palace, built for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Mata Hari was arrested there in 1917 on accusations of spying, and it closed two years later, another casualty of the First World War.
Despite its brief history, it was tempting to imagine patrons arriving in the lobby with trolleys of Vuitton luggage in tow. Ghesquière conjured those ghosts with his opening sequence of full-skirted dresses in contrasting stripes and checks that had a whiff of Victorian propriety, though he said they slip on like a T-shirt.
“The life of hotels and the secrets they harbor is enigmatic. It’s very poetic. And the Champs-Élysées was the place to see and be seen at the turn of the century,” he mused. “But it’s not just nostalgia, because now it’s also about the future. It’s going to become a cultural spot, a social spot, thanks to the Louis Vuitton project.”
To keep an element of surprise, he wrapped the show space in an orange tarpaulin normally used for hot air balloons. “It’s a deep dive into the idea of an extraordinary journey,” he explained.
For most people, travel is a little less romantic these days, with understaffed airports and missing luggage just some of the hazards of modern journeys. Ghesquière is aware of that, as well as the impact of global warming, which was sharply illustrated by the sizzling temperatures at the Paris shows.
His spring collection was designed to be easy to pack: exit the zips and buckles the size of gold bars, and in with lightweight materials like the fine cashmere of a maroon robe coat. The designer is not done with volume yet, only this time he offered inflated blouses and padded satin jackets as snuggly as down comforters.
“We actually weighed the fabrics almost down to the gram, and considered how clothes could be packed — what looks good when it’s wrinkled, and what shouldn’t be creased,” he said.
Among his smart solutions were unstructured jackets that could be tucked in at the waist, and taffeta shirtdresses in bedding stripes. A lightweight suit in printed viscose came with a matching coat, while cocktail outfits took the form of glistening jumpsuits with gathered necklines, cut on the bias and fully embroidered with stripes.
Exiting the show, guests were met with a compact crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of guests including Zendaya, Regina King and K-pop stars Felix from Stray Kids and Hyein from NewJeans. At the nearby flagship, climate activists belonging to the group Dernière Rénovation doused the sidewalk and windows with orange paint in protest against parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s activities. Now as then, it’s all happening on the Champs-Élysées.
Launch Gallery: Louis Vuitton RTW Spring 2024
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