PFW: LOUIS VUITTON F/W 2014

I’m going to go out on just a bit of a limb this morning and predict that Louis Vuitton is going to be the look to have this fall.

Anticipation for this morning’s Louis Vuitton parade began before the last model was off the runway last October. Rumors had already been swirling that Marc Jacobs was leaving the label, which LVMH confirmed immediately after the show, and almost within the same breath Nicolas Ghesquière’s name was being mentioned as the only possible successor. Sure enough, by late November the deal was inked and Paris held its collective breath in anticipation for what would happen next at the storied fashion house.

As the sun rose in surprisingly clear skies over Paris this morning, guests entering the show space on the terrace of the Louvre were surprised by the difference. There was no huge theatrical production. Seating was minimalist. On each seat was a typed note from the designer, surprisingly humble in tone, thanking buyers and editors for their support, acknowledging Marc Jacob’s contribution to the house, and admitting that the job ahead of him was overwhelming. Even before the first model set foot on the maze-like runway, Ghesquière was presenting a brighter, kinder, refreshing Louis Vuitton look.

Some are saying Ghesquière played it safe with his first collection for the brand, and I’ve heard more than a few references to his work at Ballenciaga. Certainly, he brings with him a certain aesthetic that is familiar. I think it would be disingenuous for him to suddenly change the look that made him such a popular choice in the first place. I prefer to think that he played it smart with this collection, presenting looks that are memorable, on-trend, and wearable. There are no gowns in this collection at all. In fact, one would need to stretch a bit to consider much of anything as appropriate for after 5. This is day wear, skewed a bit for a younger audience, perhaps, but certainly strong enough to carry the label forward.

Ghesquière gives a nod to the 60s, which seems to be a Parisian requisite this season, with short skirts and tunic dresses and large-lensed colored sun glasses. Silhouettes are probably the most slim we’ve seen from LV in a very long time. Waists tend to run high, especially with trousers, and the pants themselves are severely tapered, which creates an absolutely killer look in leather. Elongated funnel necks, some rolled over leather, are a common touch. Lapels and collars tend to be a bit exaggerated. Compare these looks to anything from the past eight seasons and one would hardly know it is the same brand.

Where Ghesquière wins is with his combination of fabrics and textures. There is a lot of leather, to be sure, which one expects from Louis Vuitton, but he pairs it nicely with neoprene, silk, and tweed in carefully designed panels that subtly elongate the torso and de-emphasize the hips. We see a lot of zippers, and I especially liked the more subtle style of quilt stitching in the skirts; just enough to give the piece some texture, not enough to distract from the overall aesthetic of the ensemble. Shoulders, where they exist, are predictably padded and rounded, but when one looks at the collection as a whole there are a surprising number of sleeveless pieces and not a lot of jackets or coats to cover them. While this is a decent-sized offering, it seems obvious that the shortened schedule under which Ghesquière had to work required a limited focus and perhaps did not give him enough time to produce quite as full a collection as he might have with an extra month or two to plan.

Of course, hand bags and shoes are a huge part of the Louis Vuitton experience and there Ghesquière played it especially simple. Hand bags are pared down quite a bit, more boxy and luggage shaped, perhaps a bit smaller than what we’ve seen in previous seasons. The looks are tasteful, to be sure, but one will have to be careful with the clutches especially; they are small enough one might easily forget they are carrying anything at all and leave one behind. When it comes to shoes, the most popular look was black patent leather ankle boots with leather straps crossed over the bridge. The look appears often throughout the collection and was certainly getting a lot of attention from guests, including Christian Louboutin.

My favorite piece came late in the collection, about look 39 if I counted correctly. It is a black and white short-sleeved dress with black bands around the collar, across the shoulders, and at the waist. The look is singular within the collection, but a very attractive concept upon which I wouldn’t mind seeing Nicholas build and expand. The silhouette it creates is sufficiently feminine, but also hints at a bit of an edge that could be nicely exploited.

Sure, there is no whiz-bang, oh-my-stars-did-you-see-what-he-did moment here. Remember, Ghesquière barely had three months to pull this collection together. That he showed as many pieces as he did was pretty impressive. Time required a more singular focus and I think prudence and smart marketing dictated that he stick with day wear that was approachable with a broad mass appeal. There will be plenty of time later for Nicholas to stretch his creative talent and create more climate-changing designs.

The popular appeal of this Louis Vuitton collection is undeniable. Most people wanted Nicholas to do well and I do not think he disappointed at all. This is quite possibly the most successful debut we’ve seen a designer have at any label in several years.

Ah, but one is only as good as their next collection in the fashion business. Expectations will definitely be higher for spring. We will be excited to see what Ghesquière brings to the table then.

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