Dark clouds swirled ominously on a video backdrop. Then, in a defiant bid to shoot a ray of light into gloomy times, Marc Jacobs sent out his romantic-cum-sporty, casual-but-pretty Vuitton collectionmotivated, he said, by his championing of "beauty, despite everything." A mattress-ticking anorak, over cropped white cotton drill pants and a funny cheap checked shopping bag that carried a big, passport-style Louis Vuitton stamp, set the mood. As usual, though, this collection was a complex refraction of the many inspirational sparks that go into the work here: pieces synthesized to project the simultaneous multinational appeal this brand must maintain.
As it developed, the show patched in elements of Victoriana (corseted leg-of-mutton-sleeve jackets, cotton-muslin underpinnings) against oxford-blue men's shirting, sprigged Liberty-style prints, balletic tulle petticoats, and washed-out khaki parachute silks. Add the detail of puffy pockets, drawstring ruching, tape ties, and suspended shapes, and you have the laundry list, though not the complete essence of it. The X-factor is the Asia-facing appeal in all this prettiness. Jacobs and his team were in Tokyo for a Vuitton show last May, and while they were at it, they looked at the streets and took in some shopping at one of Japan's specialist figua stores, which sell hyper-lifelike child dolls clothed in complete wardrobes of faerie frills and flounces.
That reading delighted the junior Japanese fashion editors in the audience, who, like the girls back home, kill for the kawaii (trans.: cute) aesthetic Jacobs consistently fields so well at Vuitton. To Western audiences, meanwhile, the faded, watered-tea-to-dusty-rose tints and the hint of Meissen milkmaid skewed more Marie Antoinette aftermath. No disagreements, though. It was young and refreshing, and the multilingual signage in the bags and the shape of hollowed-out shoe heels flashed out loud and clear. "LV-OE," it read.