Deep underneath the splendour of the Louvre museum, we dived for the Louis Vuitton show. It was held in a secret passageway of the former royal palace, which was originally a tradesman’s entrance. House founder, Mr Louis Vuitton, would use it to attend to his client, the Empress Eugenie of France. As a master trunk maker and packer, it was his job to transport her crinolines and precious wardrobe items between royal residences.
This year is the 200th anniversary of his birth, so the setting was pertinent – although it never looked so splendid in his day. Nicolas Ghesquière had lined the passage with hundreds of vintage chandeliers to evoke a vampire ball inspired by his costume designs for Alicia Vikander’s new HBO series Irma Vep. “I like the figure of a vampire who travels through the ages, adapting to dress codes of the era he lives in while maintaining a certain air of the past,” said Ghesquiere, who mixed and mangled eras with masterly skill. 1920’s beaded. Poiret-style gowns were distorted by hooped panniers (a reference to Empress Eugenie). A pleated silver skirt worn as a cape over high-waisted jeans had a glam rock feel. Elsewhere the mood was of rapturous fashion free-styling. Tailcoats were encrusted with jet beads or came in crisp denim, glimmering slip dresses were worn over jeans whilst grand heirloom capes and eccentric, Peggy Gugenheim-style sunglasses added drama.
The workmanship was deliberately exceptional – an indication of how luxury is becoming more rarefied and consequently more collectable. Ghesquière deployed traditional couture trims and embellishment – even using a stash of 19th Century beads to encrust the sumptuous opening looks.
“I wanted to situate this ready-to-wear collection at the threshold of couture,” said the designer who described it as “unabashed luxury that demonstrates the opulence of the maison’s savoir-faire.” It more than matched the opulence of his time travelling, era defying imagination. It was a tour de force of high fashion swagger and craft.