Nicolas Ghesquière on site-specific eccentricity in fashion
When Nicolas Ghesquière staged his fifth cruise collection for Louis Vuitton last night in a famed art foundation on the Cote d’Azur, he practically invented a new category in design – site-specific high fashion.
The 61-piece collection presented on the gravel pathway of the legendary Fondation Maeght, perched on a steep hillside above the ancient village of St Paul de Vence was also wilfully eccentric and all the better for it.
FashionNetwork.com caught up with Ghesquière post-show after he had posed for photos with a dozen thespians – including Sienna Miller, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Stone and Justin Theroux – to discuss balancing the art of creating a strong fashion signature while also being in the moment.
Why did you pick this location?
“It’s a place I have loved for many, many years. I think I came here over 25 years ago. I fell in love with the foundation and I have come back since many, many times. So, I was here last July and the discussions had begun on where we were going to pick to present our Louis Vuitton cruise. So, when I came back to Paris I said 'Why don’t we pay homage to the genesis of an art foundation?’ To this love story between a family and artists and architecture. And I proposed that idea to Monsieur Arnault (chairman of LVMH, Vuitton’s owner), Delphine (Arnault) and Michael Burke (Vuitton CEO), and of course they loved it. So that’s how it started, and why we are here today,” said Ghesquière, standing before a massive white marble by Joan Miró.
Back in the 1950s, Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, Miró’s gallerist, commissioned Josep Llúis Sert to begin building the space, the first private foundation of visual arts in Europe. It is a masterpiece of modernist architecture practically littered with great works of sculpture. Giant murals and paintings by Ellsworth Kelly, Marc Chagall and Vassily Kandinsky, whose very colors flooded much of the collection. One yellow, white, silver and black cocktail dress almost seemed lifted from a Fernand Leger wall ceramic.
What were the links between all the modern art on display and the actual collection?
“For sure the gravel had to be considered! (the designer laughs out loud) That’s part of the sound and feeling of this place. And, why we had our new sneakers,” he smiled, referring to the remarkable new thigh-high sneaker boots worn by half the cast.
“To me, it’s more interesting to think what kind of woman can evolve in this sort of environment. It was a fantasy goal of mine. This show is about eccentricity. It is how an individual can create their own proper style and I love this idea of someone who mixes things in their own unique way. Which is how I worked with Grace Coddington.”
The now-retired fashion director of American Vogue, Coddington, played with LV’s iconic monogram throughout the show, injecting illustrations of her two cats, Pumpkin and Blanket, alongside designs of Ghesquière’s brown Labrador dog Léon.
“I wanted to work with Grace for many years. We have been friends and this was a great chance to create together, all these bags. We have a cats and dogs relationship! She’s the cat person and I’m more into dogs.”
Much of the collection reflected individual spaces and actual sculptures throughout the Fondation.
“When we came to actually staging the show it was hard to decide whether it should be in the Giacometti courtyard or the Miro Maze? Or walking the Alexander Calder sculpture on the front grass lawn? But in the end we decided to make it a tour of the place. So, the shape of the statues was very much influencing my silhouette. Absolutely. You always fight with gravity when you design clothes. You want them to be light or to be suspended, or move with the body of the woman. So that’s why there is this relationship between movement and these wonderful monoliths of art. There is something quite magnetic about it.”
Some 600 people attended the show, half of them clients, all of whom were invited the following day to view – and order looks – directly from the show in a massive showroom Vuitton created for the occasion on the Croisette in Cannes. Much of the collections details and color palette seemed based on the actual location. Right?
“The palette of the place is very specific. The color card is very related to the Sixties when the foundation was built. So, my answer was to give a color card that was more Miamiesque, something very acidic."
Last week, Ghesquière posted the news on Instagram that he had renewed his contract with Louis Vuitton. His post was tagged #notgoinganywhere. It made headlines – understandably - seeing all the dramatic changes in direction in major houses this past year.
So, how important is iconoclasm, and breaking the rules for this designer?
“It’s important but it’s also important to build a vocabulary. And it is what I have been doing now for five years with Louis Vuitton. We all dream of playing with the vocabulary; and shaking and transgressing it, even as we all dream of being in the moment. Every designer is trying hard to respond to the need and desire to have new emotions in fashion. So there is a constant balance of wanting to last long and have a signature but also to be in the moment. That’s why I chose this sort of fashion and this job.”
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