It would've been impossible for Nicolas Ghesquière to arrive at Louis Vuitton and deliver a fully formed debut collection, the forward-pushing, prophetic kind he consistently brought to Balenciaga. It will take several seasons and countless tweaks to come to an aesthetic that blends the designer's quietly radical experiments in proportion and fabrication with the brand's own DNA, still so closely associated with Marc Jacobs.
A natural compulsion to compare the two designers may have been the reason Ghesquière wrote a touching note placed on each seat. It read, in part: "Today is a new day. A big day. You are about to witness my first fashion show for Louis Vuitton...I salute the work of Marc Jacobs, whose legacy I wholeheartedly hope to honour." All of which is to say, Ghesquière's first foray was a very pared-down affair, sans sweeping conceptual statements. But while there were no great ideological leaps, the mere cracking of the door is marvelous enough.
Marc Jacobs was known for his elaborate sets for Vuitton — carousels, escalators, a real steamtrain. But Ghesquière kept the setting at the Louvre’s Cour Carrée stark and simple, utilizing only the space's blinds, which were fully open to allow a flood of sunlight onto the runway — emphasizing that this was a fresh start, a clean slate.
The clothes, too, were relatively undramatic and straight-forward, keeping mostly to a silhouette of high-waisted mid-thigh skirts paired with long-sleeve snug tops or tanks. Leather and suede were the materials of choice — a nod to the house's long heritage as a luxury luggage purveyor — and they were often cut, at times imperceptibly, in unconventional ways yet in conventionally autumnal colors. The most winning of the bags, and there were a lot, ended up being the smallest, a minaudière shaped like a trunk and, of course, monogrammed.
Leathers and fabrics were cut in diagonal and oblong shapes that were pieced together to create cohesive looks, like a leather dress with a side zip or knockout knit skirts with panels of fringe or feathers cascading down the front and back. Those alone are enough of a starting point for future collections.
Certain Ghesquière-isms did make the inter-house transition, most notably flouncy bat sleeves, subtly flared pencil skirts, and moto-esque skinny pants. But for the most part this was cautious nudging in a new direction. The jury is still out as to whether the new Louis Vuitton will be a laboratory of explosive ideas or a factory of beautifully safe ideas. We suspect the former, or certainly hope for it. Ghesquière has said he felt stymied at his previous employer by a resistance to invest in his more inventive (and costly) notions. It's hard to imagine the same scenario playing out at Louis Vuitton, with its vast resources and capital.