The Paris runways have been a youth quake of swinging '60s and '70s style. And on Wednesday morning at Louis Vuitton, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere joined the march, showing a collection that was luxe-meets-lava lamp, crushed velvet, "Partridge Family" florals and all.
It could have just looked like a bunch of old clothes (ahem, Saint Laurent) had the materials, workmanship and details not been so luxurious. Plus, there was more here than just a retro rewind. The collection's success was in its broad reach, from wearable sportswear elevated by that je ne sais quoi French touch, to the kind of vision pieces that get fashion editors' hearts pumping.
The location, at the new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne park on the outskirts of Paris, was a treat to visit. The building, constructed as a museum for LVMH boss Bernard Arnault's art collection, was designed by architect Frank Gehry, and opens to the public Oct. 27.
It's a gorgeous structure, all angles and light, with silvery sails like the ones on Disney Hall in L.A., reflected in a rippling pool of water out front.
But inside, the pitch-black show space resembled a nightclub, with spotlight beams shining down on guests, including the most celebrity-heavy front row of the season. (Catherine Denueve, Sofia Coppola, Miranda Kerr, Michelle Williams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jennifer Connelly and on and on.)
The show opened with a cast of avatars welcoming us to "Project Gehry," a ship for exploring "travel to any part of the universe without traveling." Where Ghesquiere took us was to the 1960s and '70s, only through his futurist's eye.
With Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" for a soundtrack, and models' hair pulled up, the vibe was sweet and girlish. I kept thinking of Ali MacGraw.
Crochet shifts with high neck collars tied with ribbon were charmingly romantic, as were frilly poets' blouses and peasant dresses in black and white, with soft ruffles and lace insets. Meanwhile, the perfect pea coat and shrunken blazer, an army jacket lined in downy shearling and great-looking dark denim trousers with a high waist fit suggested Vuitton under Ghesquiere could become a brand known as much for luxe sportswear as luxe leather goods.
But there was also lots of color and flash. Ghesquiere took a graphic approach to leather, turning out vertically striped eelskin mini dresses and jackets with a glossy allure. Cropped velvet jeans were worn with floral shirts right out of "The Partridge Family," and groovy patterned trousers with matching jackets.
On the accessories front, there was a lot of newness, including quilted flap bags, half moon-shaped satchels, and the tiny Vuitton trunk minaudieres from the fall season, in a larger, softer shape. Plenty of boots, too, from go-go styles with sculpted chunky heels, to glam rock booties with metallic leather cut-outs.
By the time the cocktail frocks came out, covered in trippy embroidery, followed by a model stripped down to a crushed blue velvet bra and velvet jeans, we were really swinging.
It was a visual spectacle to match Gehry's ambitious design, but with enough nuts-and-bolts pieces to build on Ghesquiere's strong foundation.