nicolas ghesquière at louis vuitton is a fashion love story
When one of fashion’s most directional designers joins forces with one of the world’s largest luxury brands you can expect a bang. Nicolas Ghesquière’s debut for Louis Vuitton is a standout collection with everything you could dream of from a debut...
Sasha wears all clothing and accessories Louis Vuitton.
When one of fashion's most directional designers joins forces with one of the world's largest luxury brands you can expect a bang. Nicolas Ghesquière's debut for Louis Vuitton is a standout collection with everything you could dream of from a debut. Prepare to set your world alight in this fashion story that brings Sasha Pivovarova, Alastair McKimm and Glen Luchford together for fashion fireworks!
As the shutters open on the custom built Louis Vuitton show space in the courtyard of The Louvre, the runway is flooded with sunlight. Skream feat. Kelis' Copycat purrs seductively over the speakers, "Aw, come here copycat, you're my puppet, you know I love it…" as Freja Beha Erichsen steps out in a razor sharp A-line black leather coat, with sharp autumnal brown collar and makes history.
To say Nicolas Ghesquière's debut collection for Louis Vuitton was one of the most wildly anticipated debuts in recent history would be an understatement. The excitement amongst fashion editors and fans was electrical, as the industry geared up to welcome back one of the most important designers of our generation. Retro yet modern, sharp yet soft, Nicolas wiped the slate clean like a palette cleanser. "I had a vision, not really a strategy," he says of his approach. "I knew early on that I didn't want to make a trendy fashion collection because I wanted to get deep into the wardrobes of lots of different women."
When it comes to defining the silhouette of the season, Ghesquière is king. At Balenciaga, his armor-like, sculptural designs shaped the fashion landscape for 15 years. For his debut collection at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas' shifted his focus to straight lines. The waists of dresses and skirts were raised just below the ribcage, accentuating the architectural flare of the skirts. Chunky zips spliced the front of polo necks, while sporty jackets with sharp collars, in a 70s palette of blue and brown, offered a playful twist on après-ski wear. Texture was key; strappy leather dresses transitioned into flared boucle skirts, slit to the thigh, a brown suede A-line dress with blue and purple iridescent paneling shimmered like tinsel, while a black crocodile leather coat danced and flickered down the catwalk like an inky spill.
These are clothes you want to touch, run your hands down, experience and most importantly wear. As for the accessories; the earring, the black patent boots, the quilted bowling bags… each one radiates such must-have appeal they're fast on track to cult status. According to WWD, leather goods currently account for 90% of Vuitton's sales, Nicolas' aim is to bridge that gap, and bring ready-to-wear to the forefront once again by artfully synthesising the two. "I think we're experiencing a pop moment for fashion as well as for art," Nicolas says. "Many people love fashion today, want to join in, belong. We should embrace that and make something out of it."
Born in 1971, near Lille, and raised in the small town of Loudun in the Loire Valley, Nicolas always knew he wanted to be a fashion designer. "I had a very happy childhood, very protected," he informs. "I knew early on what I wanted to do and my parents supported me completely." At the tender age of 14, Nicolas applied for a month internship with agnès b during the school holidays. From here, he was offered an internship with the young designer, Corinne Cobson, with whom he worked every weekend for two years, before finishing his studies and taking on the role of assistant to Jean Paul Gaultier from 1990 to 1992. A period he describes fondly as being at the "heart of a nuclear reactor".
"There were questions, yes," Nicolas confesses of his parents' reaction to his fierce determination to work so young, "but never doubt. They reinforced my confidence. And I was lucky to meet the right people, like Gaultier and later at Balenciaga. There were a few people who took a great deal of care of me."
On departing Gaultier, Nicolas designed knitwear for the small Parisian brand Pôles, before joining Balenciaga as a product designer in 1995. A mere two years later, he was appointed the house's new Creative Director, taking over from Josephus Thimister, at the remarkably young age of 26.
Over the next 15 years, Nicolas grew Balenciaga like a Phoenix from the ashes into one of the most directional and inspiring fashion houses in the world. A hit-making machine, his designs came to define the decade - skinny school blazers, cargo pants, metallic leggings, gladiator skirts and sandals - quickly gained cult status and were hungrily snapped up by editors and fashion fans around the globe.
Ghesquiere departed Balenciaga in November 2012, and took a one-year break, before being appointed the Director of Women's Collections of Louis Vuitton in November 2013. It was a momentous occasion that confirmed Nicolas' position as one of the most important and directional fashion designers working today. "We have had a connection for a long time now," Nicolas says of his relationship with the French luxury house. "We had spoken about projects before but it was not the right time, not the right project. With the success of Jacobs' own business though, the right conditions were there." And the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slotted together. "That's why it feels good," Nicolas continues. "It's good timing for everyone."
Feeling good is integral to Nicolas' vision for a new Louis Vuitton. It was evident on the sunlight catwalk in the Louvre, in the crisp, architectural lines of his A-line skirts and jackets, and in the personal note from Nicolas on each guest's seat - "Today is a new day. A big day. You are about to witness my first fashion show for Louis Vuitton. Words cannot express how I am feeling at this moment. Above all, immense joy…" he wrote. The show, and indeed all of Ghesquiere's offerings for Vuitton since - a stellar cruise collection in Monte Carlo and an iconic advertising campaign shot by Juergen Teller, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibowitz starring fashion's greats - have been bathed in brightness and new beginnings.
A true visionary, it is little surprise that where Ghesquiere leads others will follow, and today his influence is felt on catwalks around the world. While they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it's not something that ruffles this French man's feathers. "In the fashion game you have to constantly challenge yourself," Nicolas explains. "But I'm not scared in the actual sense any more, now I'm more relaxed, I feel shoulders next to me, and I am surrounded by people I trust." Trust is integral when you're at the helm of a big house like Vuitton - indeed when you are at the helm of any major job, creative or otherwise - as is having a close-knit army of friends and collaborators at your side. Nicolas took his inner circle from Balenciaga to Vuitton with him, including his best friend, stylist, confidante and muse Marie-Amélie Sauvé with whom he has collaborated for nearly twenty years.
While some designers would have felt daunted at the prospect of taking over a luxury brand such as Vuitton, not Nicolas. "I was not nervous, but I was impatient," he confesses. "I couldn't wait to make and show my collection, and to experience the reaction. It seems that everything that I have done until now has been a preparation for Louis Vuitton. My voice is now louder, reaches more people…" That must be a good feeling? "Yes, I feel good," he smiles. "And they look after that here too."
Text Holly Shackleton
Photography Glen Luchford
Fashion Director Alastair McKimm
Hair Duffy at Streeters for Vidal Sassoon
Make-up Sally Branka at LGA Management using NARS Cosmetics
Nail technician Gina Viviano at ABTP
Photography assistance Jack Webb, Lance Cheshire, Braulio Moz
Digital technician Aron Norman
Styling assistance Katelyn Gray
Hair assistance Ryan Mitchell
Make-up assistance Daisy Whitney
Casting Angus Munro for AM Casting (Streeters NY)
Production Tali Magal at Freebird Productions
Model Sasha Pivovarova at IMG
Sasha wears all clothing and accessories Louis Vuitton