The plight of any critic is that when you’re confronted with a body of work by an artist who has historically proven an especially precocious dexterity in tipping the scale or disturbing the balance, it is impossible to place the aforementioned talent in a box. And anyone with experience writing knows that the easiest way to compartmentalize an idea is to create a box into which you can place it.
So when you’re sitting at a Louis Vuitton show and trying to reconcile what the broken, mirrored mosaic walls mean in conjunction with a technical, stretch knit that is blocked in primary colors and silhouetted to move with not just a body but, truly, an emotional personality, what you’re left with is a furrowed brow.
Here’s what my notes from this morning’s show read:
Leather pants, patent red
Military! Box bag. Chunky — boots
Trench coats that stop then get long again the mechanics are so hard to describe because the clothes aren’t obvious
Those are nice sweaters — did I sell my red leather pants?
Louis Vuitton plastic-shopping-bag in leather
Some of these looks are very much like each other but does that even matter? So we got the ruffled shoulder back again this season, now it’s deconstructed
One more instance of knitwear under slip dress
Collection in the present moment — not pushing forward but presenting best interpretation on what many others are doing. More reactive than proactive, a result of the changing fashion climate?
What are those silk skirt pant things? New drop crotch invention by Nicolas
White piping, good coats
Flare sleeves to close the show? Hmm.
In a few run-on sentences, this is what those notes mean: I have conditioned myself to expect that the intergalactic universe-obsessed Nicolas Ghesquière is always going to command what all the other designers will eventually do. He proved this during season one when he introduced the 70s to the rest of us. Those cues are still proliferating. All the ski-ready half zips we’ve (I’ve?) been exploiting and talking about? Those are his. This was true last season of his sling back loafers and bubble skirts, too. It will be true next season of his mullet coats. But for the most part, what Ghesquière brought forward this morning was a very intelligent, very emotional and very complex iteration on what the zeitgeist is currently commanding.
Durable combat boots, puffer jackets, patent leather pants, bustiers and slip dresses — and herein lies the brilliance, right? Because, sure, you can be stunned by something you’ve never seen before. That’s a fascinating and enthralling prospect. But when you’re on day-30 of a marathon, at the penultimate show of a very long season after having seen so many clothes that you might want to renounce getting dressed all together, it is truly extraordinary to be met with a collection that more or less abides by the same tenets as the other ones but still has you walking away feeling energized, challenged, invigorated to go on. That’s power.
Photographs via Vogue Runway; collage by Elizabeth Tamkin.