The dra­matic for­ti­fied vil­lage of Saint-Paul de Vence, in the idyl­lic south of France, played host to Louis Vuit­ton’s cruise ’19 col­lec­tion show.

VOGUE Australia - - CONTENTS - By Dan Thaw­ley.

The south of France played host to Louis Vuit­ton’s cruise ’19 col­lec­tion show.

There are places where the air is just, well, dif­fer­ent. You know that feel­ing? It ac­com­pa­nies the plunge into warmer days, and that well-de­served change of lat­i­tude. Equa­to­rial es­cape. Oxy­gen. Most of the time, the un­wind­ing be­gins by sim­ply leav­ing the city, but there are cer­tain places that em­body the no­tion al­most peren­ni­ally. Like the south of France, for ex­am­ple.

Ni­co­las Gh­esquière, Louis Vuit­ton’s wom­enswear de­signer, has flut­tered across the planet in his deca­dent quest for the an­nual cruise des­ti­na­tion show. It’s a phe­nom­e­non that has seen megabrands such as Vuit­ton, Gucci, Chanel and Dior im­pose a third run­way af­fair on their an­nual cal­en­dars, one that sees clients and ed­i­tors flown to ex­otic spots such as Mal­ibu, Florence, Ky­oto and Rio de Janeiro.

It’s no fash­ion week, mind you: just one show, a din­ner, a party, and a smat­ter­ing of cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties (and pam­per­ing) for the lucky few in­vited to ex­pe­ri­ence it in per­son. But don’t worry, with the plethora of dig­i­tal out­lets trained upon any ma­jor fash­ion show these days (even drone cam­eras, hov­er­ing above), there is no ex­cuse to miss the ac­tion, and Gh­esquière’s lat­est ef­fort en­sured an AAA back­stage pass to all of those view­ing at home, too.

In 2014, Gh­esquière’s first #LVCRUISE show took place in a cus­tombuilt pavil­ion in front of the Prince’s Palace in Monte Carlo, Monaco. It was a colour­ful ri­poste to his Paris de­but: a pas­tel frenzy of aquatic wig­gles, leather, lace and mo­tocross checks.

Fast-for­ward four years and a re­turn to the Côte d’Azur for the cruise ’19 show came with new­found au­thor­ity, not only in the form of a re­newed con­tract but as it was one of Gh­esquière’s most ex­cit­ing col­lec­tions for Louis Vuit­ton to date. Gh­esquière’s clothes were framed in a mul­ti­sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that called upon a plethora of cul­tural touch points past and present, start­ing with his choice of lo­ca­tion, the hal­lowed Fon­da­tion Mar­guerite et Aimé Maeght perched high in the hills of Saint-Paul de Vence, to the west of Nice.

As the lat­est in Gh­esquière’s choice of mod­ernist mar­vels, the build­ing hous­ing the foun­da­tion’s pri­vate art col­lec­tion, de­signed by Span­ish ar­chi­tect Josep Lluís Sert in 1964, fea­tures in­ter­con­nect­ing cham­bers with arch­ing catch­ment roofs that, at cer­tain an­gles, echo the horns of a bull. Through­out its sprawl­ing gar­den, truly unique works abound, from large-scale Marc Cha­gall and Alexan­der Calder sculp­tures to Georges Braque’s mo­saic gaz­ing pool, and Al­berto Gi­a­cometti stat­ues that stand in solemn vigil over a cen­tral court­yard.

The pièce de ré­sis­tance, how­ever, re­mains Joan Miró’s labyrinth, a wind­ing rock gar­den pop­u­lated with ce­ramic fea­tures, added from the 60s up un­til the early 70s, that form a sweep­ing Sur­re­al­ist study of ob­jects and sym­bols from the cos­mic egg and pronged fork to lu­nar and so­lar birds. It is there that Gh­esquière chose to trace his cat­walk, chanc­ing the spring rains that some sources say were kept away by a Brazil­ian shaman.

By di­vine in­ter­ven­tion or not, Gh­esquière’s dusk af­fair went off with­out a hitch, as guests filed into the grassy hill­top gar­dens, past Gi­a­cometti’s walk­ing men and Miró’s multi-coloured gush­ing foun­tains. A con­cert by Wood­kid pref­aced the evening’s main sound­track, with the French mu­si­cian em­ploy­ing in­cred­i­ble mid­cen­tury per­cus­sion in­stru­ments by the Baschet broth­ers be­fore the show be­gan and his pre-recorded elec­tronic mix syn­co­pated the an­gelic gospel stylings of the Nagoya Chil­dren’s Choir with ac­tress Jen­nifer Con­nelly read­ing from Grace Cod­ding­ton’s mem­oirs.

Sound like a mouth­ful? It was. But it was only the be­gin­ning of this col­laged, post-mod­ern pro­duc­tion, one that gave us hints as to Cod­ding­ton’s in­ter­ven­tion in the form of cat-shaped il­lus­trated stick­ers that came along with the sea­son’s Epi leather en­ve­lope-clad invitation. They were her draw­ings, al­ready iconic to cer­tain fans (but en­tirely new to oth­ers), and they be­came a se­ries of witty hand­bag de­signs come show­time – sprung to life in the form of zipped cat clutches, mir­rored bag charms and sketched Petite Malle boxes.

What, you might ask, do Cod­ding­ton’s cats have to do with Louis Vuit­ton? Ev­ery­thing, in a way, if you think about the mod­ernist spirit of the Fon­da­tion Maeght, and the col­lab­o­ra­tive way artists once lived and worked in close prox­im­ity, swap­ping works and ideas, mak­ing fur­ni­ture, clothes and other dec­o­ra­tive arts with and for each other’s en­joy­ment. Just as the Maeghts chose Miró’s friend to build their foun­da­tion, so Gh­esquière called upon his friend Cod­ding­ton to add a dash of hu­mour to com­ple­ment his dar­ing ready-to-wear.

And so, to the clothes: a daz­zling crescendo of eclec­tic, multi-coloured de­con­struc­tion that, at first glance, couldn’t have strayed fur­ther from the retro-bour­geois col­lec­tion he showed in the Lou­vre for au­tumn/win­ter ’18/’19 mere months be­fore. At closer in­spec­tion, though, the evo­lu­tion was ev­i­dent, as fa­mil­iar raglan forms, tiered shoul­ders and pe­plumed waists re-emerged in ex­plo­sive new con­coc­tions that en­tirely re­pro­grammed the sporty, dainty na­ture of last sea­son into this no-holds-barred cel­e­bra­tion of arty Japon­isme ver­sus 80s power tai­lor­ing and op­u­lent drap­ing.

To wit, the first look re­vealed a white crepe blouse and beige shorts, the shirt raised with shoul­der pads and split down the sleeves, the shorts wrapped with a linen over­skirt and tied with a mono­gram karate belt over thigh-high black leather sneak­ers. Its pro­por­tions set the tone for a top-heavy sil­hou­ette which, bar a stun­ning pair of white pleated gowns, fo­cused on wide shoul­ders and big sleeves with myr­iad neck­lines that tied or plunged into soft drap­ing. Scooped and squared tai­lor­ing saw roomy buffalo jack­ets hand-painted in 80s art brut brush­strokes or strewn with cow­boy strass, while float­ing scarf dresses came patch­worked, dipped in che­quer­board se­quins and cov­ered in bristling fab­ric feath­ers.

Cou­pled by stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé with the sea­son’s slinky gold­soled sneaker boots, New Wave berets and a plethora of new bag styles (that buck­led, folded and swung like buck­ets), these ex­tra­or­di­nary clothes held their own among their po­tent sur­round­ings, and though mim­ick­ing them at times through colour and line, ul­ti­mately rep­re­sented Gh­esquière’s idea of how ad­ven­tur­ous women might want to dress in our time, not Miró’s or the Maeghts’s.

It’s why, amid a plethora of vin­tage copies on run­ways to­day, his clothes re­tain their in­nately con­tem­po­rary feel as, be there tinges of West­wood or Gaultier, Claude Mon­tana or other­wise, the dense ma­te­rial re­search, tech­ni­cal ac­com­plish­ment and witty styling of these gar­ments el­e­vates them above and be­yond their ref­er­ences time and time again. In this hy­per­sen­si­tive age of In­sta­gram call-outs and mi­crolevel copy­ing blame games, fash­ion crit­i­cism has be­come a murky dig­i­tal bat­tle played far from the pages of mag­a­zines, but with the priv­i­lege of re­flec­tion (some­thing that to­day only print me­dia al­lows), it’s safe to say these may be some of the most rad­i­cal, real-world clothes we’ll see, and wear, in the year to come.

Gh­esquière’s dusk af­fair went off with­out a hitch as guests filed into the grassy hill­top gar­dens

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