PFW: LOUIS VUITTON F/W 2016

Louis Vuitton F/W 2016
Louis Vuitton F/W 2016

Rain descended upon Paris this morning, which often brings out a rather romantic feel to the city. Romance probably wasn’t what guests had in mind, though, as they became quite soaked walking or in some cases sprinting from the parking area to the show space at the Louis Vuitton Foundation this morning. Creative director Nicolas Ghesquiére draped the show space in black to create a futuristic ambience in the glass-enclosed structure, but I’m not so sure, given the heavy clouds this morning, but what the effect might have been better with the natural elements.

Once inside, where it was wonderfully dry, guests took their seats along a set that wasn’t as digital as last season but still had a very futuristic feel to it. Mirrored stalagmites rose from a black and white geometrically patterned floor. Blue lights cast a haze across the room. Maybe it’s just the geek in me, but references to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude immediately came to mind. This was a cold forest of the future. Be prepared for surprises.

As with last season, Ghesquiére remains committed to a look that seems intent on taking us into the future, whether we really want to go or not. The aesthetic is more dark this season, though. We don’t see the bare skin and the attitude is far from frivolous. The tone is more serious and it is not inappropriate to look at some of the ensembles as reflecting a state of war or battle, though whether that might be real or metaphorical is a matter of opinion. Ghesquiére plays to a harder edge as though he’s preparing for a very long and very cold winter.

While there is definitely a military inference, with brass buttons and diagonal striping on jackets, what’s really worth noticing in the way Ghesquiére mixes fabrics. There’s plenty of leather, plenty of silk, and plenty of knits and he’s not afraid to use them in any combination. This sets us up for several very unique looks where textures run from very rough to very soft with only a tiny seam between them. Most the time that contrast works quite effectively, and where it doesn’t the sin is relatively minor.

Ghesquiére places an interesting emphasis on the bust to waist line in this collection and he does so in some very creative ways. On some ensembles, he builds up the top of a garment, cropping it just below the bust, forcing a more narrow and tailored look at the waist. This is a very clever technique that helps present the illusion of an hourglass figure even if one doesn’t quite have the natural measurements to match. Other times, he uses shaped colour outlines to emphasise where curves should be, creating a sense of the female form on knits that are actually cut more generously. Then, for a couple of looks, he goes all Ex Machina with a skin-tight body suit that broadly outlines the skeletal form, using colour to emphasise the bust. On still other pieces, he overlays leather bustiers and battle-worthy covers that, in comic book fashion, might protect the breasts but not the vital organs beneath them.

Then, there are those huge hats. Fortunately, we only see a couple of them, and I don’t know but what Ghesquiére only included them as a form of comic relief in the midst of what otherwise seems a very serious-toned  collection. When I saw the first one coming down the runway, I was reminded of a sketch comedian Steven Colbert occasionally does on the Late Show using an equally large hat (with similar shape), to make humorous rules and declarations. While the immense size of the hats makes them impractical, they do inject a sense of light heartedness.

Still, it is his unique layering and blend of fabrics that really make this another strong collection. His cropped silhouettes are very attractive and very different than what we’ve seen happening elsewhere this season. Keeping a futuristic tone to his collections gives Ghesquiére some unique space to explore different shapes and cuts without the severity of his step away from the status quo being quite so obvious. Okay, so he did manage to slip one puffer jacket into the mix; that, too, he managed to pull into the aesthetic of the collection.

Granted, what Nicolas Ghesquiére is doing is quite different from the house’s traditional silhouettes, but the creativity is strong enough I think Louis Vuitton would approve.

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