Finale of the Louis Vuitton Cruise show files out around the pool Photo by Louis Vuitton
Like a spaceship docked on an arid mountain above Palm Springs, Bob Hope’s former home welcomed the aliens: purposeful women, heads high, skirts breezing down to sneakers or legs striding out in shorts. They marched across the terrace, under the swooping saucer of a roof, out into the golden light of a setting sun reflected in a swimming basin of water. Louis Vuitton Cruise 2016 had landed!
View of the 1973 modernist mansion built by architect John Lautner Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
The spectacular show, with a Seventies feel to match the modernist mansion, built in 1973 by architect John Lautner to suggest a volcanic eruption, was Vuitton’s cruise collection. And it brought out the best in designer Nicolas Ghesquière.
Suzy with creative director of Louis Vuitton Nicolas Ghesquière and Charlotte Gainsbourg Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
From the start of his career he has held a torch for futurism. But this journey into space had all the finesse of experience and seemed a natural fit with the travel roots of the luxury brand. Even if the bags were mostly small clutch purses or square boxes, rather than travel tools, this seemed like an energetic and purposeful forward march.
Catherine Deneuve and Suzy Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
A star-studded audience, from Michelle Williams and Selena Gomez, through Kanye West, Asian actress Maggie Cheung and French legend Catherine Deneuve, quaffed champagne on the preternaturally green lawn before taking to futuristic seats on the outside terrace.
Delphine Arnault, Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton, with her father Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH, and his young son Alexandre Arnault Photo by Louis Vuitton
Delphine Arnault, executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, joined her father, chairman and CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault, and his young son Alexandre Arnault in the audience, to watch the models in their light, long dresses, often revealing a little flesh at the waistline, descend the stairs to start the show.
The dramatic vista of the show location which once belonged to Bob Hope Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
Backstage, in a room looking over the parched landscape and bare hills, Ghesquière explained why this mid-century modernism of Bob and Dolores Hope spoke to his creative soul. “As a project, it’s really visionary – I knew this symbolic house of modernism and I always dreamed 15 years ago about the house that was like the city’s castle,” he said. “I was intrigued by its shape. And when I started at Vuitton, I already had the feeling that people are travelling for art and that this could be an architectural journey. The strength of digital imagery has become another strong experience which people want to see in reality.”
Kanye West Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
The notion of art as a catalyst of travel was born out by a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum, where Louise Bourgeois and Barbara Hepworth sculptures through Roy Lichtenstein panels to Anselm Kiefer’s meld of steel, plaster and fabric seemed to firm up the idea of the desert city as wedded to modern art.
Taiwanese actress Rainie Yang with Suzy Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
The cruise collection was neatly balanced between long soft dresses for women who looked like they could take on the world with their sneaker strides; and the harder, sportier feeling of leather jackets in Seventies ginger and rust colours. There was also a touch of sweetness in chains of blue flowers on a white dress, daisies embroidered on black brogues and the girly look of soft drapes at the shoulders or patterns on shorts with cotton shirts.
Suzy posing against the interior of Bob Hope’s house Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
Ghesquière referred to the meld of styles he found inside the Bob Hope Estate, which contrasts architectural brutalism with something sweet, referring to butterfly prints in a bathroom and greenery painted round an indoor swimming pool, while concrete and raw desert stone make up the house’s core.
Centre left actress Alicia Vikander and centre right musician Grimes with friends Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
I should have asked the designer about Coachella, and whether the music and arts festival in Palm Springs, with its Summer of Love vibe, had also triggered the wispy dresses hardened with leather belts. I might also have inquired whether a cruise collection should seem at times so thick and wintery, especially in this Californian dust bowel. But Nicolas was insisting to me that he was very French and that if there was a local element it was the influence of the desert, as in the black palms on the bags and the sense of a community of women.
The desert sun hits the hair of model Natalie Westling wearing an embroidered belted top and skirt Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
So had the Bob Hope house brought to Louis Vuitton a return to the futurism that was part of Ghesquière’s vision from his earliest days at Balenciaga? “I have heroines in my head and some may look futuristic and some everyday,” Nicolas said. “I visualised it as multiple. Not one woman but many different personalities.”