For the last four weeks of the international Fashion Week marathon, we’ve been looking for a defining fashion moment. Was it Raf Simons’s Warhol-infused American horror story at Calvin Klein? Marc Jacobs’s souped-up, diva sportswear with turbans? Demna Gvasalia’s latest mix of streetwear and couture kitsch at Balenciaga? Or the bohemian fantasy of Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe, with its handcrafted textures and laid-back elegance?
It was not until the final show of the season, Louis Vuitton, that it became clear the moment had arrived at last. Models emerged wearing resplendent 18th-century men’s coats threaded in gold, matched with pastel silk running shorts and sneakers whose soles had been pumped up. By the time long chiffon dresses and nearly see-through, jeans-cut pants in silver, white, or sky blue with a tiny ruffle down the side arrived — again, with sneakers — it was as though a reset had occurred. Those other standout shows (to which we could add Céline and the ingenious Undercover) still had their merits, but none advanced a clearer vision of how to dress in 2018 than Nicolas Ghesquière.
Ghesquière said afterward that he decided on sneakers early in his design process, and didn’t consider a second option. That’s how girls move today, he said, and the shoes, with ankle-grazing tongues and beefy heels, did seem to propel the models slightly forward. For me, though, the most telling gesture was the jean-cut pants, with a side frill below the knees. Sports-inspired pants have been ubiquitous, except these were in stretch silk, so it made them just a little bit sheer and also polished. They’re sure to be widely copied.
The overall blend of the modern and the classical was not totally surprising, given Vuitton’s kingly approach to most things. The brand flew in a bunch of movie stars for the show, which was held on an illuminated white catwalk in a gallery of the Louvre lined with ancient stone, at the end of which was a sphinx. There’s a dinner at Versailles tonight for big spenders, and all week there have been VIP tours of the new Place Vendôme flagship, which features a huge, radiating metal sun on the façade, while inside, a contemporary rendering of young Louis XIV hangs amid new parquet floors, metal fixtures, and walls of the light-colored stone that dominates Paris.
My own tour of the elegant new store reminded me that Louis Vuitton is a huge luxury brand with an omnivorous clientele. Among the many novelties on display on the luggage floor is a steamer trunk designed as a kind of curiosity cabinet for collectors of Vuitton’s small box-shaped purses. It can be yours for roughly $100,000. Viewed in that context, Ghesquière’s fashion choices can seem awfully small and insignificant. But that’s the whole ballgame — it’s these small gestures of style that impart a sense of modernity and keep a brand relevant. He’s consistently been one of the few designers who understand that.