The white gravel hill path that winds around Joan Miró’s sculptures in the grounds of the Fondation Maeght, near Antibes in the south of France, was not just the catwalk for Louis Vuitton’s cruise fashion show, but the inspiration as well.
“I thought about what a woman would wear in this environment,” said designer Nicolas Ghesquière. His answer? Thigh-high trainer-boots, their latex stockings attached to sporty double-soled sneakers, worn with acidic silk dresses to flutter in the pine-scented breeze.
The clothes were extraordinarily beautiful. (The shoes were just extraordinary.) This was Ghesquière who, last week, renewed his contract at Louis Vuitton after five years, doing the intensely chic futurism that he does best.
After a ready-to-wear collection in Paris fashion week 10 weeks ago notable for being within the guardrails of bourgeois – Madame Macron-friendly, some noted – this cruise collection saw a return to Ghesquière’s signature look. (Think left-bank sculptress crossed with Luke Skywalker.)
Iconoclastic modernism linked these clothes to the art around them. Proportions snagged the eye in the same way as the Miró and Giacometti pieces that dotted the lawns: the inverted-triangle proportion of a broad-shouldered jacket, the angles of a dress snipped at one ribcage. Modernism was always his point of view, said Ghesquière after the show. Of the sculptural silhouettes, he said: “You always fight with gravity when you design clothes. You want the clothes to be light, to be suspended, to move with the body of the woman.”
The Fondation Maeght, founded by art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght as a temple to the work they loved, is “a love story between a family, artists and architecture,” said Ghesquiere.
The 1964 opening-night party remains the stuff of art-world legend: Ella Fitzgerald sang jazz and Alberto Giacometti, who designed benches and door handles for the building and huge pieces in the courtyard, looked on while smoking a pipe.
Fifty-four years later, Louis Vuitton’s party for 600 guests brought some of that glamour back. As well as actors Emma Stone, Léa Seydoux, Ruth Negga and Sienna Miller for the front row, the house flew in a shaman, hired for an undisclosed fee, to keep the rain away.
Bruised-blue skies held off for the duration, with torrential rain beginning half an hour later as models, now changed into jeans but still bearing the fire symbols painted on to their brows by makeup artist Pat McGrath (“to symbolise a community of women”) danced under the trees.
Ghesquière’s success at Louis Vuitton has been to boost sales while also raising the tone. Cruise fashion shows, in which fashion superbrands lay on jaw-dropping spectacles to impress their glamour upon a global audience, can seem crude in tone.
Ghesquière deftly elevates his cruise shows by choosing a modern architectural masterpiece for each venue. In this way, Louis Vuitton’s bombastic extravaganzas are pitched, instead, as a cultured world tour.
The Fondation Maeght, whose distinctive half-pipe roof has been variously likened to a skate ramp and to the horns of a bull, followed venues which have included Bob Hope’s spaceship-styled home in Palm Springs, the Mac Niterói gallery in Rio de Janeiro, and the mountaintop Miho Museum near Kyoto.
With this collection, Ghesquière said, he tried to balance classicism with excitement. “We all dream of making timeless clothes, of having timeless style, but in fashion you also want to be in the moment. You have to react to now.”
The Miami-esque colours were his response to the Fondation Maeght’s 1960s colour card. Cat-shaped clutch bags were a collaboration with the British fashion editor Grace Coddington, whose eccentric style was an inspiration for the season.