Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nicolas Ghesquière. Photo by Louis Vuitton
With a powerful Louis Vuitton cruise show in California’s Palm Springs, Nicolas Ghesquière has made his fashion journey from futurism at Balenciaga to creative modernism at Vuitton.
Inspired by the “Journey into Space”-style home designed by architect John Lautner in 1973, Ghesquière, 43, has succeeded in synching his personal aesthetic with the LV world.
After 15 years as artistic director at Balenciaga, he made a mild start in his new artistic director role nearly two years ago. But even without the desert sun over Palm Springs, Ghesquière’s LV collections are getting hotter.
A view of Bob Hope’s visionary mansion, the location for the Louis Vuitton cruise 2016 show. Photo by Louis Vuitton
Cruise collections — once an inter-season top-up for fashion brands — are increasingly held in far-flung destinations, with Chanel earlier this week in Seoul, and Dior’s imminent show in Cannes.
I talked to Nicolas, as we watched a flaming sun set over the barren mountains and warm the brutal stone architecture. And he revealed that rather than a recent whim, the inspiration for this fine collection was seeded 15 years ago, when he first set his eyes on the building’s mid-century modernism.
A view of the show space owned by Bob and Dolores Hope and designed by John Lautner in 1973. Photo by Louis Vuitton
Here is Nicolas — whose English language skills have marched fast forward with his fashion innovations — in his own words.
SUZY: Had you heard about this house or did you know about it before you came to Palm Springs?
Nicolas: I knew the house. It is such a symbolic modernist house that I had always dreamt about it. I came to Palm Springs 15 years ago. It is funny, the house is like the kind of castle of the city, it has a theatrical mood, it is interesting. I remember being here and looking at it, and being very intrigued by the shape and wondering what it was. Of course I found out very quickly that it was a John Lautner house, built for Bob and Dolores Hope.
Miranda Kerr, Alicia Vikander, Michelle Williams, Nicolas Ghesquière, Nathalie Emmanuel, Britt Robertson and Adele Exarchopoulos all enjoy the cruise 2016 show. Photo by Louis Vuitton
Suzy: What about putting fashion in that category, making it more futuristic? You have done that in the past when you were at Balenciaga.
Nicolas: I love looking forward, but the idea, when I discovered the house, was also to think about the community of women that were living there and evolving. The house had a lot of influence on me. And I am a foreigner in California and America, so, as a good foreigner, I take in a lot of things — I am curious and I try to assimilate them. In the collection — I think it is very French in Palm Springs! Yet at the same time there are so many evocations of American iconography.
What I think is very interesting about the house is its contrast of brutalism with modernism and the Fifties. When Bob and Dolores Hope moved in, they were already at a certain mature stage of their life, and they had very Fifties taste. So some of the rooms — like the bathrooms, with flowers and wallpaper — are totally Fifties. I love this contrast between the minimalism, the brutalism, and something sweet and colourful. In a strong way, the collection reflects that.
Ghesquière re-imagined the Louis Vuitton luggage and produced a mini-trunk clutch. Photo by Louis Vuitton
Suzy: So when did you first come here and see inside the house?
Nicolas: February. I was there with Charlotte [Gainsbourg] for a Louis Vuitton exhibition about travel. There is a good reason to come to LA when there is something to do. So we came to Palm Springs to see the house.
Palm Springs. Photo by Suzy Menkes/Instagram
Suzy: In your career at Balenciaga, the early collections looked like futurism as people would have seen it in the Sixties. Is there any of that still in your head?
Nicolas: I think it is over — I integrated that. I have different heroines in my head. Some look more like a futuristic woman, and some look like an everyday woman. I think I visualise women in a certain way, but it is multiple women — not just one. It is many different personalities of women that I project, and that is the way it is. I love a sharp line — I am not going to lie! I love architecture and a construction that is evocative of certain things — something sharp, something very intriguing.
The “look” for the cruise collection. Photo by Louis Vuitton
Suzy: What about the famous Louis Vuitton bags? You showed them in your main collection for autumn/winter 2015 — little square silver bags like space-age accessories.
Nicolas: You mean the rigid little trunks? Some of those are very animated in a Palm Springs way. There is the black palm [detail] and a real desert feeling in the collection. They are this community of women who could have evolved in the desert. But you know also that it is Louis Vuitton. I feel good. I am making my mark. I am defining my territory in Louis Vuitton and that is what I have been asked to do — to express a point of view. And so it is true also that I am getting very… curious is not the right word…
A postcard depicting the Palm Springs mansion used as the show space. Photo by San Fernando blog
Nicolas: Exactly! Explorative! I am giving myself permission to explore the most I can, and in fact it is wonderful also with Louis Vuitton to do that kind of project. When I was at the Parker (hotel) 15 years ago, and I came here and I saw this house, I never would have thought that one day I would do a collection in there. It is what this wonderful situation is bringing me. And I hope it makes people happy.