‘You could call it an exhibition, but I see it as a moveable walkway of clothes.’*
Louis Vuitton Series 3: Nine rooms that take you through the concepts behind Nicolas Ghesquiere’s fourth collection for the luxury luggage maker’s AW 2015-16 fashion collection. Whether or not it is an exhibition, it is certainly more than clothes. It takes us from logo to luggage, the science, artisanship and inspiration behind the catwalk and the accessory collections. It’s a wonderfully welcoming show: how refreshing to be told to take as many pictures as you like, take your time, enjoy it, touch things. Despite the focus on clothes, the luggage and handbags are the stars – not surprising for the product that delivers around 75% of LV’s profit.
We start with the logo, reimagined for the digital age, hurtling through a 3D universe towards us, and looking not unlike a Jeff Koons balloon sculpture in its new incarnation. From there we move onto what inspires Nicolas Ghesquiere – a vast, modernist-industrial globe hanging in the air, illuminated by a single arc-light casting a chilly glow. The feeling one gets is part ‘Alien’ part arctic expedition but the sense is of travel taken to the extreme. Then comes the trunk – the signature item, positioned, open in the centre of the room like an Egyptian sarcophagus but with a digital screen installed inside it – a box of delights.
And then we see the same treatment applied to the workroom, with each “desk” a digital display showing the disembodied hands of the worker on their worktable as they make the bag. You can sit and look down as if watching your own hands creating the bag.
Nothing prepares you for entering the next room: the catwalk. It is a room filled with life-size screens and mirrors that make it seem as if you are walking amongst the models – a surreal and overwhelming experience.
Then we are back to work, starting with the digital artisan, with a huge screen demonstrating laser pattern cutting. This is closely followed by the human artisan, with one of LV’s real-life artisans from Amiens, present and making a Petite Malle (tiny trunk-style clutch bag) before your eyes and ready to answer your questions.
Finally, the goodies and they are rather gorgeous goodies. First, the accessories gallery sets today’s pieces alongside the archive creations that inspired them. I loved a gorgeous tweed printed canvas make-up case from 1966 and a sumptuous (but heavy) leather hatbox from 1900. Then, we see the walk-in wardrobe – Ghesquiere’s beautiful clothes up close and personal in a modernist perspex and mirrors wardrobe. Looking at them at the end of this exhibition did indeed give me a new perspective – up close you can see how laser cutting has been used to create a lace-like effect, bringing digital technology into the production of a leg-of-mutton sleeved jacket that is clearly Victorian in its inspiration (see image at the top of the post).
This is an exhibition for the modern-day Gertrude Bell, the Victorian adventuress soon to be portrayed by Nicole Kidman on screen. The LV woman we see in this exhibition is curious, well-travelled, digitally connected, discerning of craftsmanship and of course, stylish. This is a commercial exhibition for sure – as a visitor you are never in doubt about that – but it is no less beautiful and thought-provoking for it. See it at 180 The Strand, London before it closes on 18 October.
*As told to Jo Ellison, Fashion Editor of the Financial Times