Louis Vuitton takes flight with its 2020 cruise show


The evening began with a shuttle bus ride that snaked through Manhattan and Queens rush-hour traffic for almost two hours on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and then continued an additional 45 minutes more before the first model walked the runway. At one point, an attendee in the front row wailed to her seatmate, “Can’t they at least give us some food?” — echoing the familiar complaint of coach passengers trapped on yet another uncomfortable, interminable journey.

If Nicolas Ghesquière, creative director of Louis Vuitton, was trying to recreate the flight from hell at the 2020 cruise show staged at the TWA Flight Center on Wednesday night, he did an almost perfect job of it. Traffic jams. Long lines. Confusion over seat assignments. It had an all-too-familiar ring.

But if the space was a challenging one, you had to give Ghesquière credit for at least picking a venue that not only underscored the beginnings of Louis Vuitton as a travel accessories company but that also paid tribute to a fellow creative trailblazer. The old TWA terminal, soon to reopen as a luxury hotel, was designed by the legendary Eero Saarinen. With its swooping lines that resemble a bird in flight, it was long considered one of the most elegant airport terminals in the world before it was shut down in 2001. And people seemed thrilled to get a sneak preview of its reawkening, eagerly posting their photos on Instagram and Twitter while they waited for the show to begin.


Looks from the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020 collection runway show presented at the former TWA terminal at New York’s JFK airport on May 8, 2019.
(Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for Louis Vuitton)

“I was lucky enough to have landed at TWA Flight Center in the late ’90s,” Ghesquière said after the show. “It was something I could never forget. This place was forgotten for 20 years, and now has come back to life.”

There was a definite buzz of glamour in the crowd. The show came two days after the Met Gala, for which Ghesquière dressed three Oscar winners (Emma Stone, Alicia Vikander and Jennifer Connelly), one Jones brother (Joe) and one famous daughter (Riley Keough). They were all there on Wednesday, along with Michelle Williams, Justin Theroux, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett, as well as dozens of attendees who, based on their over-the-top outfits, looked like they were still trying to find the right look for the “camp”-themed gala two days earlier.

At around 7:15 p.m., just a quarter-hour later than the announced departure time, the models emerged, grim-faced and determined-looking, whizzing by as if they were trying to catch a plane, their heavy black boots pounding the floor, and ominous music playing loudly in the background. (If you were afraid of flying, this was not the fashion show for you.)

Looks from the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020 collection runway show presented at the former TWA terminal at New York’s JFK airport on May 8, 2019
(Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for Louis Vuitton)

Some of the looks were delicate and lovely, like an elegant pink-checked blazer over skinny white pants. And some were fun and flirty, like flouncy miniskirts in blue and silver and in neon fuschia. But others, like a metal-studded black jacket and a severe pinstriped suit, projected a fierceness that made you wonder whether this was a cruise collection meant for a traveling band of dominatrixes. (Did I mention those boots?)

But as with almost all of Ghesquière’s work since he was named creative director of Louis Vuitton in 2013, the overall look was luxe and sumptuous; the intricate handiwork almost challenging you to reach out and touch it from your seat. It’s a look that can turn even an airport terminal into the most elegant runway in town.