As the light dimmed to black an electronically controlled curtain lifted to reveal a front glass mounted seven levels high scaffolding with a choir consisting of over two hundred people each wearing different costumes representing archetype styles of clothes from the fifteenth century to the 1950’s created by the costume designer Milena Canonero, who has designed the looks for a few of Stanley Kubrick’s best-known movies including Barry Lyndon, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. The choir group sang in unison a new song created by Woodkid and Bryce Dessner titled ‘Three Hundred and Twenty’ that resurrected the sounds of composer Nicolas de Grigny who was a contemporary of the composer Bach but never was recognized in any manner until now. The theater director Francisco Negrin directed the choir and orchestra in a live performance as the models took turns on the wooden platform set.
That was just part of the stage set for the Louis Vuitton Fall 2020 show inside a rented glass tent with a wood and Valchromat décor that is PEFC certified as sourced from sustainably managed forests in France and post show all the materials will be donated to charity. It was surely a masterpiece of staging worthy of any major movie production and more.
“In fashion, the notion of time is primordial. I wanted different eras to be confronted with one another, our own. All these ‘pasts’, embodied by a gallery of personalities in period dress, converge in our present. We are all together looking at a collection that itself recounts a living, perennial, stylistic clash – and everything we can do with clothes by mixing and free-associating them. It’s sort of an anachrony of genres. This collection is about an ‘anti-total look’ that draws on individual personality, on the agility one experiences when confronting one’s own closet,” says the designer Nicolas Ghesquière of his time travel and in a sense time warp concept for fall. The designer and Louis Vuitton are also the lead sponsor of the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute exhibition ‘About Time – Fashion and Duration’ that will examine a century and a half time line of fashion from 1870 to the present era. Perhaps this show is a prelude to the Met event coming early this May of which Louis Vuitton is the main sponsor.
This was not the first time Ghesquière toyed with the notion of time, of cross-breeding types and archetypes of clothes across centuries. In his spring 2018 show inside the newly renovated Pavilon de l’Horloge in the lower floor of the Louvre that was once a medieval fortress, the designer showed new versions of Louis XIV frock coats worn with silk running shorts and super large sneakers that became a huge commercial hit. That was then.
Now confined within a sustainable setting destined for the young generation which is paramount for the brand’s business strategies in this new era of social, economical and environmental consciousness, surely the models parading on the runways had to compete at least sartorially with the choir members dressed impeccably in period styles that included a large red ball gown with crinoline and a grey slim ankle pant jacket – both styles recalled the dominant eighteenth-century dressing from paintings. A series of colorful patchwork techno fabric puff outerwear combined with a black puff shiny satin or a white heavy cotton layered skirt and a burgundy or navy stripe slim pants indicated what Ghesquière meant by the combination the frocks of different era – it also demonstrated the brand’s strength in outerwear now made in fabrics more in tune to the taste of a new generation.
The menswear motifs expressed in the show’s fine tailoring especially silhouettes made with traditional masculine fabrics – like wool brown stripe double-breasted worn with shiny black, ecru and silver ruffle short skirt, a light brown windowpane cropped jacket paired with biker pants or several wool lean coats worn with red or white leather jumpsuits were the strength and perhaps a retail backbone of the collection. But it was hard to discern any element of the inherent theme of a time clash in looks like a black boxy single-breasted with different widths of stripes for the jacket and pants or a large lapel one-button jacket paired with a zippered ice blue nylon pants or for that matter a gingham lapel less jacket and striped leather pants. Perhaps the final evening embroidered bolero jackets paired with wool biker pants were closer to the show’s theme targets as were the baby doll sheer flounce dresses with black silk ruffle trims over tight leather biker jumpsuit shorts.
The distance between the breadth and depth of the visual tableau vivant with all its reproduced historical dress – the gestures so imposing, so grand and so exhilarating in every way – and the clothes that were to express and fulfill the intended actual runway concept seemed much further apart here than it was in October 2017. And here the artistic direction remained steps ahead of the real dressing propositions in terms of what and how women today should dress in the real world.