What would a blockbuster sci-fi, underwater fairytale look like? Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière provided the answer with his soaringly imaginative, lavishly crafted Cruise collection which explored the idea of mystical underwater creatures coming ashore in search of a party. The fantastical idea was inspired by the show’s setting, in the Italian lakes, which the designer has always found mysterious and magnetic. The event was held on Isola Bella, a private Island on Lake Maggiore, which has been in the Borromean clan for 500 years.
It is the original European party island, dominated by tiered tropical gardens and a vast baroque pleasure palace so splendid (ice-blue plasterwork, lashings of gold leaf and racy reliefs ) that it attracted the likes of Napoleon and Josephine. Fast forward to 2023 and Oprah Winfrey, Catherine Deneuve, Jennifer Connelly, Gemma Chan and Jaden Smith made it their playground.
Isola Bella’s ornate terraced garden was supposed to be the backdrop to a sunset show but torrential rain brought the audience and models inside the historic, hedonist, pleasuredrome. Ghesquière has a history of showing his far-flung Cruise collections at sites of architectural interest. In the past he’s favoured modernist masterpieces as his backdrop (who could forget last year when the setting sun cast a golden glow over the brutalist beauty of San Diego’s Salk Institute?). This year, however, was inspired by the lake setting and historical venue, the mood of his collection was romantic and supernatural.
Ghesquière’s models looked like mythical lake creatures called up from the deep by the lure of a good party. Jackets were a cross between modern scuba-wear and 17th Century doublets, embellished with couture level finery. Skirts were encrusted with sequin scales fit for a mermaid, hems rippled with undulating frills. The level of craft was awe inspiring. One cape-jacket was dripping with embroidered water droplets. Adding to the drama were striking masks and soaring headpieces, crafted by an atelier in Rome that usually designs for the opera. Cashmere Neapolitan ice cream-coloured sweaters with sheer stripe panels, roomy city coats, slouchy boots and capacious duffel bags carried the torch for covetable practicality, but the fantastical and intense finery won the night.
There were sumptuous brocades, embroidered with mythical creatures, intricate lace fashioned into jeans, and a Byzantine gold and jewel embroidered breastplate decorating the front of a scuba-sweatshirt. After wowing with the intensity of his craft and audacity of his cuts, Ghesquière served up a series of spectacular pastel finale gowns that were at once fragile and fierce. Elongated, with swirling hems and swooping shoulders, they soared.
Photography courtesy of Louis Vuitton.