As someone who has been covering the shows on and off since 2006, I try to suppress my inner overzealous fashion fan. After all, this is my profession, and I am only doing my job by sitting in the audience. But I couldn't help but feel more than a little thrill this morning at Nicolas Ghesquière's first show for Louis Vuitton. He is, after all, the one that other designers follow so closely. It was special to be able to witness him, and the house, starting over.
The show took place in the same venue where Marc Jacobs staged his Louis Vuitton shows -- the Louvre's courtyard -- but unlike Jacobs' grand displays of past seasons, the set was minimal. Guests -- of which there were about 1,000, reportedly 800 fewer than last year -- sat on beige moleskin-covered stairs, with only two or three rows per section. Just before opening model Freja Beha Erichsen stepped out onto the runway, metal shutters were pried open, letting in a stream of natural light.
Erichsen wore a white turtleneck dress, paired with a black patent leather coat that had a pointy brown collar. The silhouette -- a slight A-line -- was the collection's calling card. There was a girlishness about it -- the tweed empire waist dress with a white collar piped in black leather; the leather slip dress with a diagonal insertion of tweed at the hem -- but the rich fabrics (brushed shetland wool, crocodile, printed moleskin) gave off just enough of a sophisticated air. Ghesquière is 42, so it makes sense that he often references the late 1970s and early '80s. Today, we could see his youth in the new takes on alpine sweaters, the leisure suit-like collars and the use of colors like cognac, beige and teal. "This familiar wardrobe appeals to the collection unconscious, stirring our affective memory," the show notes said. "We never tire of these perennial pieces." Of course none of these pieces looked ordinary or sentimental. One look in particular -- a crocodile-zip vest paired with an embroidered spiral skirt -- was so futuristic and covetable at once that it is sure to influence a thousand designers.
But beyond the coolness of the clothes, Ghesquière's first outing was so remarkable because it was so true. He couldn't just borrow from the house's fashion archives -- Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton's first ready-to-wear designer, is his contemporary -- so instead he let the house's heritage of leather goods inform the work. It was certainly evident in the clothes, but more so in the accessories, which perfectly toed the line between editorial and commercial. His mini "trunk" shoulder bags had just enough novelty, and the patent-leather boots with wrap-around leather straps were an instant classic.
It is important to remember that Louis Vuitton's end goal is to continue to sell lots and lots of handbags. But Ghesquière also presented clothes today that will attract a buying audience. In fact, many may become collector's items. "Does not every designer ultimately seek to create something timeless?" Ghesquière said in what felt like a very personal note left on every seat. As ready-to-wear businesses become more and more important to luxury brands that are looking for new growth avenues, his mission is more significant than ever.
Slideshow photos: Imaxtree