There was a tender typewritten note from Nicolas Ghesquière on every seat at his first show for Louis Vuitton this morning. "Today is a new day. A big day…Words cannot express exactly how I am feeling at this moment…Above all, immense joy." Emotions were high in the crowd, too. Few designers are as beloved, respected, or copied as Ghesquière is, and he's been off the scene and badly missed since his departure from Balenciaga a year and a half ago. Only Raf Simons' debut at Dior was as breathlessly anticipated as Ghesquière's at Vuitton. They're the jewels in Bernard Arnault's LVMH crown, and Arnault was in the front row today, seated alongside Princess Charlene of Monaco and other lights from the worlds of film (Catherine Deneuve), art (Cindy Sherman), and fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier, for whom Ghesquière worked early on, turned up, as curious as the rest of us to see what the new LV, after fourteen years of Marc Jacobs at the helm, would look like.
As the metal blinds of the Cour Carree show space opened to bright sun, Freja Beha Erichsen emerged in a black leather snap-front coat with a wide caramel-colored collar, carrying the new Petite Malle bag, a miniature LV trunk at her fingertips. The coat's flared A-line cut and abbreviated thigh-high hem was the show's predominant silhouette, but if that shape cued a 1960s vibe, the workmanship was 21st-century state of the art. "The knowledge of the team is extraordinary, the best of the world," Ghesquière said afterward, clearly delighted to be back at the red-hot center of things. You won't find a more luxurious coat than the black crocodile shown here, despite its industrial zip front, or a jacket as well made as the one he patchworked in different colored leathers.
Naturally, there were a lot of skins, a lot of suede, a lot of leather, and naturally Ghesquière used them in innovative ways. A pair of cool evening looks had molded leather bodices and knit skirts aswirl with hand-cut feathers. Elsewhere, the designer's famous flair for experimentation was somewhat scaled back. (That mostly holds true for the bags as well, save for a double-handled style that in fact came with just one handle.) "I will not say it was effortless, but it was a much more natural and easy process," he went on. "I listened to the girls in the studio a lot, the women around me, what they want, what they need." That came across in an outfit like the checked three-button blazer accompanied by glossy leather jeans and a red cardigan with a frilly white collar underneath, and in another that consisted of a white turtleneck, a trim black jacket, and a skirt in wool and crinkly leather, the new LV suit. And in a third that was as straightforward as a ski sweater and a belted A-line mini can be. Skirts and dresses were squarely the focus, yet fans of Ghesquière's life-changing trousers could take heart at the sight of a high-waisted style into which he tucked a khaki jacket. In any case, there will be plenty of seasons for pants. This was a great beginning, understated but not without power, for Ghesquière and the new Louis Vuitton.