In fashion, the art of making a look your own, rather than the wholesale adoption of the latest trend, is what distinguishes someone with style.
On the final day of Paris fashion week, Louis Vuitton gave a masterclass in making a hugely familiar trend – sportswear – its very own.
“We all live in sports clothes, they are a reference for all of us,” explained the creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, when describing his the autumn collection. “It’s the way women dress today and I wanted to show that.”
As Lou Reed’s Street Hassle played, models wore silky T-shirts with leather sleeves that recalled American football shirts, baseball jackets and leather trackpant-inspired trousers. Silky printed dresses that featured leather harnesses were more climbing wall than pervy. Catsuits with anatomical flashes of colour looked like the sort of fire-resistant all-in-ones worn by racing car drivers. Boots were high but stompy. The Louis Vuitton woman looks like she has a driving licence rather than a driver.
The show notes spoke of a journey back “through the pantheon of one’s sartorial history”, which is a fancy way of saying “my personal taste”. Indeed, much of the show felt familiar to those who know Ghesquière’s work: he has made motocross trousers and tough jackets mixed in with silky prints his own by now.
But what was particularly skilful about this show was the way in which he took trends highlighted elsewhere in Paris by other exciting designers, including Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga (Ghesquière’s last employer), and absorbed them into the Louis Vuitton world.
The humble hooded anorak – the surprise standout trend from the month of shows – was reconstituted in a mashup of technical and luxurious fabrics. The perfect example of a practical item rejuvenated into a thing of unmistakable luxury.
As ever, the world’s wealthiest brand was not afraid to display its financial muscle. The show took place in the grounds of the Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, a temple to modern art and architecture in the Bois de Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris.
Pouring rain did not deter guests, including Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and other brand ambassadors Catherine Deneuve, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith and Léa Seydoux, from skipping over mucky clay-coloured puddles to get to the show. In any case, bad weather is less of an issue when an army of Vuitton-clad suited escorts is on hand to provide umbrella coverage from car to door.
Inside the bespoke venue a specially commissioned artwork by Justin Morin created the show’s set. Silver pillars made from shattered mirrors and broken colonnades keeling over with concrete spilling out were inspired by his 2011 work Melted Bones.
But this was not about the cynicism of a billion-euro brand throwing wads of cash at a trend and hoping to con its customers into overspending because of the label sewn inside. Vuitton is far more sophisticated than that, and Ghesquière too talented and authentic a designer.
The sports clothes were not simply reprised in expensive fabrics – though it is true that the cashmere sports sweaters were made on the same machines used to manufacture technical sportswear – instead the sportswear was inherent in the collection. It was a sportswear collage rather than a facsimile.
Fashion week has drawn to a close on a realistic wardrobe moment. And it is all the more exciting for that.