Louis Vuitton Cruise 2024
ISOLA BELLA, Italy — The rain and wind couldn’t stop Nicolas Ghesquière from staging a striking cruise show Wednesday evening at Isola Bella, one of the gem Borromean islands on Lake Maggiore. On the contrary, the dark and low clouds seemed to heighten the impact of the mysterious female creatures he envisioned for the catwalk.
“I was very attracted by the story around the lake, its fairy-tale creatures,” said the designer ahead of the show, pointing out that he wanted the first models to convey “the feeling they are coming out of the water, they are the explorers of the lake, beautiful creatures, almost like the mythological lake mermaids with dragon wings.”
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Throughout the show, however, Ghesquière’s imagination transformed them into “botanical references,” inspired by the carefully tended gardens outside the 16th-century Borromean palazzo.
“Honestly, I could have done 15 collections with this environment,” he said simply, in an exclusive joint interview with Pietro Beccari, chairman and chief executive officer, who joined the brand last February from Dior.
Longtime Ghesquière supporter Alicia Vikander gushed that the designer “always makes me kind of step into a whole and complete universe, but [here] especially with what I do, it made me feel like I was watching an opera or a film.”
Despite the unforgiving weather, which forced the Vuitton team to shift the show from the gardens to inside the palazzo, the mood was upbeat and the connection between Ghesquière and Beccari palpable.
Actually, the interior of the palazzo owned by the aristocratic Borromeo family was a perfect fit for the collection, with its Baroque embellishments, paintings by the likes of Raffaello and Tiziano, and stuccoed and frescoed ceilings. Several pastel-colored rooms were in tune with a number of looks. On the ground floor, a stunning series of rooms are fully decorated as grottos, with shells and motifs formed by pebbles.
Shells and aquatic motifs recurred on the clothes, emphasized by imposing and supersized hats made in Rome by an atelier that works in cinema and the theater. “We wanted to have artisanal savoir faire to contribute to the collection,” the designer said.
Ghesquière spoke of romanticism, which was also inspired by the lake. While he admitted he had taken a different path from his previous show locations — which have included Brazil’s futuristic MAC Niterói by Oscar Niemeyer or the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport in New York by Eero Saarinen — he said he believes “the architecture is extremely strong here, and in addition there is the history. The Teatro [Massimo] is really magical, it’s a beautiful and very unique and dream-like” venue. He pointed to “the pyramid, that looks like a temple and is hard to define,” and the colossal statue of the unicorn, the heraldic symbol of the Borromeo family, as Beccari underscored.
Statues, obelisks and fountains are integrated with the vegetation of the palazzo’s 10 scenic terraces.
“Everyone thinks of cruises on the sea, but on the lake, they are lovely and very romantic, it’s a different way to approach the cruise theme,” said Ghesquière. “I always wanted to show in Italy, Italian culture is fascinating and it’s a dream to show here in such an iconic place, very sophisticated, and a little secret.”
It was also a way to bring Beccari back to Italy, he added with a smile. This was the first major show Vuitton has held in the country.
“France and Italy share this love for fashion, it’s unquestionable, and both countries are very strong in this category,” the designer said.
“If you look at luxury worldwide, it’s about history, passion, the transmission of savoir faire and you cannot invent a luxury brand, either you have the history or not,” said Beccari, who noted that storied luxury brands reside in Europe and “this will not change in 100 years,” although he did acknowledge Tiffany & Co., founded in 1859, and now also part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton group.
The first looks out were based on the idea of deep-sea diver suits, in technical fabrics but with collars shaped as shells and decorations that looked like drops of water. There were also a few on-trend miniskirts trimmed with the shell trope. Motifs like brush strokes or iridescent patterns reminiscent of reptile scales contributed to the intriguing looks.
Ghesquière unveiled scuba tank bags and a boxy case in a new sand-colored monogram, a new sneaker — “we are still looking for the name,” said the designer — and he revisited the GO-14 bag, launched in October 2014 for his first show.
“We are remastering it, it’s back to the future,” Beccari said.
The friendly banter between the two and the reciprocal support throughout the interview pointed to forward-looking statements and a more-to-come attitude.
Underscoring the importance of balancing new fashion products with signature elements, Ghesquière also reworked the malletage crisscrossing pattern on Louis Vuitton bags. He turned it inside out on the bags, with a strong canvas lining the trunks now on the exterior of the accessories, noted Beccari.
Ghesquière wanted to gradually show a more feminine woman in the collection, and he telegraphed this message with rounded skirts embellished with shells, delicate silk robes, embroidered and feather-light pants, georgette capes with jacquard paintings, knits with chiffon slits, and draped dresses in sheer jersey with layers of soft silicone that contributed to the effect of wetness — also in contrasting colors, such as bright blue and yellow or orange and pale lilac.
There were a few geometric jackets — with a hint of the Middle Ages and unmistakably Ghesquière — in shiny leather that looked like galuchat but were inspired by lake fish. The cashmere sailor coat with the rope details was reminiscent of the wooden boats harbored below.
Inspiration from the venue also was seen in the floral tapestry and stained glass effects on the hand-embroidered dresses, or the damask with prints symbolizing the creatures of the lake and the unicorn. From the water, the designer shifted his attention to the flowers of the garden of the island, with “blooming lace” and organza in monochromatic gowns with billowing sleeves or feathered hems.
“These are characters that could be in a movie, and I like the idea of pairing the ordinary with the extraordinary,” he said.
In addition to paying tribute to the lake, the designer was adamant he wanted to pay homage to “the best Italian artisans” and their craft. To be sure the craftsmanship in this collection was breathtaking. “I think I always had in mind the fantasy of showing in Italy and probably some elements were there, but it’s true that when I saw the island, the planets aligned, and this is for sure the collection I want to express for the Italian audience and the world.”
He also shared that his “first love for fashion” was fueled in Italy in his early days, working for “fantastic people” at Callaghan and on a few Trussardi collections as a freelancer. “What I learned at that time, always stayed in my heart,” he said smiling.
As for Beccari, he is standing by his time-honed mantras that have served him well over the years, propelling the brands he has helmed, from Fendi to Dior, to new heights. “I am not changing, taking risks, thinking bigger than life, and I feel I am in the right place,” the CEO said.
He touted his “dream team of champs” — the talent of Ghesquière, “a real designer,” citing him in the same breath as Karl Lagerfeld, and the arrival of Pharrell Williams, who Beccari tapped in February as creative director of menswear, and who he described as skilled for his “intuition for trends and understanding the future.” Williams attended the show on the island.
Shortly after joining Vuitton, Beccari suggested staging the brand’s pre-fall 2023 show in Seoul. The event, held on a bridge over the Hangang River, took place at the end of April and ratcheted 435 million views, “the biggest in terms of Louis Vuitton shows ever,” the executive said proudly.
“It was a fantastic show and it was not planned when I came on board but I saw the collection, I thought it was so beautiful and Korea is such a beautiful country that I proposed it and Nicolas was bold and courageous enough to say yes to my crazy idea. It made me realize that all the effort we put in the in-between collections deserve a catwalk.”
Nodding, Ghesquière said this venture brought new enthusiasm. “It was a bold game changer, and a ‘wow’ moment, when you get that kind of proposition, you can just go for it.”
“In two weeks in February, we shared our vision and mentality that nothing is impossible. It’s all great but we will see what we will be able to do because in the end we will be judged by our results — in life as in football,” said Beccari, with a reference to his early days as a soccer player.
In addition to Vikander, other friends of the house and international celebrities traveled to the island to attend the cruise show, including Jennifer Connelly and her husband Paul Bettany; Emma Stone; Oprah Winfrey; Lea Seydoux; Catherine Deneuve, and Jaden Smith.
Cate Blanchett was back from the Cannes Film Festival, where she wore two sustainable Louis Vuitton gowns, and on her way home to Australia. “I was talking with Nicolas last year and he came up with the idea of using sustainable silk and sustainable velvet, so it’s a whole new process, using much less water, it was amazing that you can get these incredible colors and sheens,” she explained of her gowns. “The black velvet dress with sustainable silk was green and the white one was made with deadstock and pre-existing fabrics.”
“It was a stunning show in such an amazing location, dramatic and unexpected,” said Gemma Chan. “I loved the headpieces and the showstopping gowns at the end, it was incredible and I have already got my eyes on a few things” for the red carpet, she added.
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