It was all change at Louis Vuitton in Paris this morning. Nicolas Ghesquiere's much anticipated debut womenswear collection for the world’s most high-profile luxury goods brand was shown against a backdrop of nothing more attention seeking than plump beige carpet and aluminum blinds. As the show began, these opened to let the daylight in and out walked the first model in a short, sharp black and caramel leather coat; knee-high boots and the type of lightly conceived hair and make-up that suggested she’d simply walked off the street having done it herself.
And henceforward the Vuitton customer will be actively encouraged to put her wardrobe together in her own way also.
‘It was a lot of work,’ M Ghesquiere explained backstage. ‘But I wanted to approach it with an ease. I didn’t want to do a story. It’s clearly a wardrobe. It’s the way it’s put together and a new, more casual approach that I’m interested in. At Vuitton you have iconic pieces, you have comfortable pieces, you have embellished pieces and it’s the way you wear them that’s important.’
Perhaps with that in mind, the over-riding mood was one of a relaxed and sporty modernity. Boldly striped, zip-fronted moulded knits were teamed with the high-waisted, narrow-legged trousers that were very much part of Ghesquiere’s handwriting at Balenciaga. They are extremely flattering and sexy too, here with a zip at the ankle and, in some instances, a knife-pleated hem. Some were crafted in leather, others in vinyl – it was difficult to tell which was which and, again, a play between the real and the faux has long been central to this designer’s aesthetic. It very much relates to the Vuitton heritage also, however. This French institution pays just as much care and attention to its entirely functional and beautifully made monogrammed canvas luggage as it does to more rare and exotic skins.
Less obviously low key – but still far from over-wrought - were bold floral prints on neat A-line skirts in neutral shades and tufted tweed paneling and shimmering sparkle across the surfaces of leather dresses that the young and lithe of limb will love to wear.
‘Of course, given the name, leather is very important,’ Ghesquiere said. ‘I asked the leather ateliers to develop some of the clothes which was new for them. Usually they do the bags and the clothes ateliers do the clothes but I wanted to tighten the relationship between leather goods and ready to wear. I’d say that sometimes people have a tendency to see Vuitton only as a leather goods company because the bags are so strong. I really wanted to integrate them with the look.’
The new Vuitton bags were as streamlined as the clothes, then: bowling bags and a more diminutive boxy design were as no-frills chic as any sartorially discerning and minimally minded woman could wish for.
If, all in all, the approach saw the dawning of a new era at Louis Vuitton, Ghesquiere was quick - and gracious - to acknowledge the contribution his predecessor, Marc Jacobs, made to the house’s esteemed history. To do so, he ensured that a printed letter was left on every seat. 'Today is a new day. A big day,' it read. And that it was. But: 'I salute the work of Marc Jacobs, whose legacy I wholeheartedly hope to honour,' Nicolas Ghesquiere wrote.