Rumors in Paris have been in overdrive since it emerged that Louis Vuitton had taken possession of a gigantic building on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées that was previously earmarked for Dior’s new headquarters.
Speculation has centered on the possibility of the world’s biggest luxury brand opening its first hotel in the Art Nouveau building, having previously touted a similar project at its headquarters next to the Pont Neuf.
On Monday, Nicolas Ghesquière clarified plans by taking over construction of his spring women’s fashion show. Sitting on an elegant Andrée Putman sofa that contrasted with the rough walls of his temporary dressing room, he revealed that it would be a hybrid space including a store, a cultural venue and a hotel, which would be designed by architect Peter Marino.
“It is difficult to put a label on this space because it will be a place that brings together all the expressions of Vuitton: cultural, artistic, commercial, obviously, but also hospitality. It is part of the role of major luxury brands today to entertain in every sense of the word,” the brand’s creative director of womenswear told WWD.
Ghesquière has a penchant for the rawness of buildings under renovation, having staged Vuitton shows at the Samaritaine department store in Paris and Vuitton’s flagship store on Place Vendôme when they were still construction sites.
Fittingly, the building on the Champs-Elysées was originally a hotel, the Elysee Palace, built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Mata Hari was arrested there in 1917 on charges of espionage and it closed two years later, another casualty of World War I. .
Despite its brief history, it was tempting to imagine customers arriving at the lobby with Vuitton luggage carts in tow. Ghesquière conjured those ghosts with her opening sequence of long-skirted dresses in contrasting stripes and checks that smacked of Victorian decorum, though she said they went on like a T-shirt.
“The life of hotels and the secrets they hold is enigmatic. It’s very poetic. And the Champs-Elysées were the place to see and be seen at the turn of the century,” she reflected. “But it’s not just about nostalgia, because now it’s also about the future. “It will become a cultural and social place thanks to the Louis Vuitton project.”
To maintain the element of surprise, he wrapped the show space in an orange tarp normally used for hot air balloons. “It’s a deep dive into the idea of an extraordinary journey,” she explained.
For most people, traveling is a little less romantic these days, with understaffed airports and lost luggage just some of the dangers of modern travel. Ghesquière is aware of this, as well as the impact of global warming, which was clearly illustrated by the high temperatures in the Paris salons.
Her spring collection was designed to be easy to pack: ditch the gold-bullion-sized zippers and buckles and use lightweight materials like the fine cashmere of a maroon coat. The designer isn’t done with the volume yet, only this time he offered puffer blouses and satin quilted jackets as comfortable as down comforters.
“We actually weigh fabrics almost down to the gram and consider how the clothes might be packaged: what looks good when wrinkled and what shouldn’t be wrinkled,” he said.
Among their clever solutions were unstructured jackets that could be tucked in at the waist and taffeta shirt dresses with linen stripes. A lightweight printed viscose suit was paired with a matching coat, while cocktail ensembles took the form of sparkling jumpsuits with gathered necklines, cut on the bias and fully embroidered with stripes.
Leaving the show, guests were met by a tight crowd that had gathered to watch the guests, including Zendaya, Regina King, and K-pop stars Felix of Stray Kids and Hyein of NewJeans. At the nearby flagship, climate activists belonging to the Dernière Rénovation group sprayed the sidewalk and windows with orange paint in protest against the activities of parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Now as then, all this happens on the Champs Elysees.
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