The whole world is a stage: Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are going global for the cruise
Ahead of his show in Puglia this week – the heel of the Italian boot, an ideal location for a fashion presentation if ever there was one – Gucci’s Alessandro Michele was pondering. “A fashion show is like a constellation,” he said. “It’s about invisible connections.”
But in fact, the connections have been very visible throughout what fashion is calling cruise season. These shows unveil clothes that hit stores from around October to June and make up the bulk of most brands’ sales. The big fashion brands of the last decade have taken advantage of this season to travel the world, a traveling circus of wine, restaurants and entertainment for the press and the most spendthrift customers, a few coming from each territory for the opportunity.
And the visible links are woven between the places and the clothes: Michele’s Gucci collection paraded Guinevere-style velvet dresses embroidered with constellations in front of a medieval citadel; last week, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière commandeered a California sunset as the backdrop for a collection of shimmering Sun King metallics. And, earlier this month in Monaco, Virginie Viard showed off a Chanel collection literally in the shadow of Karl Lagerfeld’s former home, La Vigie, a whipped cream villa perched on a promontory overlooking her beach catwalk. from Monte Carlo.
Of course, what each of these brands does is re-emphasize their individuality, a prized commodity. That’s why, after a break made necessary by the Covid pandemic, these shows are back in force. Gucci’s venue, the 13th century fortress Castel del Monte, is a national monument featured on the back of the Italian cent. Ghesquière has previously allied Louis Vuitton with progressive design through shows staged in modernist architectural landmarks designed by Oscar Niemeyer and John Lautner. This time it was the Salk Institute in La Jolla, San Diego, designed by Louis Kahn – a brutalist backdrop for savage-looking clothing.
While Chanel is unmistakably French, Lagerfeld has spent much of her working life as a Monegasque resident. He shot Chanel’s flagship campaigns of the 1990s there, with models dressed in glittering sequined jumpsuits on the balconies of his villa, as well as Princess Caroline. She and her daughter Charlotte Casiraghi were the guests of honor at a dinner given for Viard after this Chanel show, which was a kind of homecoming. “We had so many happy times there,” Viard said in a statement. “Monaco is inherent in the history of Chanel.” Well, maybe. It’s certainly full of wealthy people who are relevant to Chanel’s contemporary success.
What Viard does at Chanel is smart, embracing not only the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel herself, but also that of Lagerfeld, whose work from the early 1990s resonates strongly with a generation that wasn’t even born. at its beginnings. Lagerfeld resolutely refused to backtrack on his own story, but Viard has no such qualms. She’s been with Chanel since 1987 and worked with Lagerfeld on one of her other gigs as Chloe’s creative director for five years, so it’s part of her own legacy. Hence the models in cropped swimsuits, sheer black tights and Louis-heeled satin stilettos, laden with costume jewelry – avatars of unapologetic ’90s glamor if you’ve ever seen them.
It was Chanel in the fast lane – excuse the grand prix pun – performed in bouclé tweed crew suits, checkered starting flag prints and double C logo racing helmets. These will not be for sale, but minaudière bags of the same shape will be. And you can’t buy stuff like that anywhere else.
When Ghesquière spoke after his Vuitton collection, he was surrounded by a dramatic sunset over the Pacific Coast, reminiscent of the ombré bottle of the brand’s new City of Stars fragrance – a natural branding exercise. And while he talked about the sun and the nomads, two sources of inspiration for a collection of wrapped and wrapped diapers, cut around the body and shimmering with a sun-refracting sheen, you were reminded that Louis is also the name of the Sun King. like Monsieur Vuitton, and that Vuitton is synonymous with trunks, and therefore with travel. Intelligent.
Indeed, it was a shrewd, uncompromising and fierce collection. It showed a designer who is extremely confident in his own abilities and confident in a brand whose success never seems to waver and whose profit margins – north of 30% – are enviable. The power of Vuitton gives Ghesquière the freedom to experiment – these garments were glorious and fashion-forward, but didn’t seem hugely salable to you. But high fashion often isn’t. What will change are the accessories – heeled boots in golden leather, studded bags in the shape of weapons, large jewels with lapels.
And clothes will drive fashion forward. Designers will no doubt be wrapping and draping, and criss-crossing chainmail on their garments next season. Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke also confirmed that the company had renewed Ghesquière’s contract.
Back at the heel of Italy, and Gucci, whose annual turnover of 9.7 billion euros represents more than half that of its parent company, Kering. A level of influence that drew around 300 journalists and celebrities – Elle Fanning, Dakota Johnson, Lana Del Rey – to the remote Italian countryside to watch Michele’s imagination unfold in 101 looks. “I chose this place because it’s like a stargate, between earth and sky,” Michele said poetically. He projected constellations into the side of the castle as a blood moon hung heavily in the sky.
And the clothes were marvelous, with sequined and beaded tulle evening gowns, billowing capes, and a few half-and-half outfits, like black one-leg pants, one white, that seemed to reference medieval heraldry. The models wore handbags left open, with old-fashioned cosmetic accessories such as cut-glass containers and lipstick boxes. Gucci has a beauty line and these see-through dresses showed thigh-high lace-up boots, because the shoes are big too.
The beauty of Michele’s Gucci is that, as each of his shows has been powerfully product-laden (as evidenced by the fact that Gucci’s revenue in 2014, the year before he was named at the head of creation, amounted to just under 3.5 billion euros), they do not feel creatively compromised. Indeed, sometimes they overwhelm with their abundance, their dizzying creative effervescence. It’s a USP, right there.
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