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Other archival elements Ghesquière brought to the fore include:
• The quilting inside old steamer trunks was used as a surface texture on leather handbags and suede skirts, plus as a pattern on the insoles of some shoes.
• The unique color of the natural cowhide leather that features as handles and trim on monogram bags—known as VVN for “vache végétale naturelle”—reappeared in various materials, including alligator and wood-grained Epi leather, and used on handbags and clothes, often as collars or trim.
• Straps inside trunks to secure the contents during transport inspired the harnesslike lacing on shoes and booties; twisted belts echoed the appearance of straps that anchored books in “library” trunks Vuitton made for famous clients, including Ernest Hemingway.
• The encircled LV logo that figured on show invitations, and will appear on sweaters, was previously only used on the locks for trunks, when Gaston-Louis Vuitton secured patents for unbreakable locks, and locks in series that could open with a single key.
• The Neo Marceau bag, a trapezoid satchel with angular handles reminiscent of Ghesquière’s Star Wars style at Balenciaga was actually inspired by an archival style from the Fifties.
And so Ghesquière scoured the past to bring Vuitton into the future. In the broadest terms, Burke says the designer’s remit was to invent “audacity that leads to eternity.”
It was a subject Ghesquière addressed in the small, typewritten letter he left on every seat at the show, asserting that his “stylistic expression is at one with the Louis Vuitton philosophy.…The quest for authenticity and innovation. The desire for timelessness. Does not every designer ultimately seek to create something timeless?”
Perhaps the most surprising things about Ghesquière’s debut were the low-key show set—a landscape of beige bleachers and a glass-walled tent whose vents opened to reveal daylight—and that the futuristic gloss that defined his work at Balenciaga was teleported away.
Asked if he was conscious about “not doing Balenciaga” and distancing himself from that level of fashion innovation, he muses: “Well, I am what I do myself, so I don’t know if you do it consciously or not. But I try to express my point of view on fashion. And what is extraordinary with Vuitton, because it’s a big, big, big scale, is that you can imagine so many stories. It’s about multiple types of women; it’s a different profile of women. So this is very new for me. In a way, I didn’t have to think about distancing.”
As for how he defines the Vuitton woman, he replies: “I define her in a mix. She is really cool with mixing causal clothes with embellishments. The only thing is the expectation of the luxury and the way it’s done. So it’s really someone that has a real taste for mixing.”
Yet given Ghesquière’s meticulous approach to fashion, it’s hardly an anything-goes situation.
As the lineup of fashion designers who attended his Vuitton debut attested, Ghesquière ranks among the rare few you might call a designer’s designer.
“I love his work,” enthuses Jean Paul Gaultier, under whom Ghesquière worked early in his fashion career. “It’s very interesting and very clever.”
“He’s very talented,” adds Christian Louboutin. “He’s working on invention, he’s working on shapes. It’s all about research.”
Young London designer Jonathan Anderson of the J.W. Anderson label is even more to the point.
“I really respect what he’s done, and I think he is extremely important in this industry. I think designers need other designers,” he says. “I think he pushes, and I think fundamentally I can say he’s just got a very sharp approach to things. There’s no dicking around.”