Oct 4, 2012
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Louis Vuitton checks in for spring, closes Paris shows

Oct 4, 2012

PARIS, Oct 03, 2012 (AFP) - Two by two, Louis Vuitton's models glided down a row of elevators onto a giant checked runway, as the luxury house headlined the last day of Paris Fashion Week on Wednesday with a look fed by conceptual art.

Louis Vuitton - SS 2013 / Photo: Pixel Formula

For his spring-summer line, unveiled in the courtyard of the Louvre, the house's New Yorker designer Jacobs cited as inspiration Daniel Buren, a French contemporary artist who helped him created the set for the show.

The graphic aesthetic marked a clean break with the French house's recent lyrical outings, which have featured a life-sized train or a twirling carousel.

"After the romance of the train and storytelling, this felt like something that was very powerful without really having a story," said Jacobs.

Checks defined the look -- both a reference to Buren's work and to the Louis Vuitton damier motif, which the firm trademarked as a signature pattern in 1888.

Buren is best known for a group of 260 columns set on a black-and-white grid in the Palais Royal gardens, a stone's throw from the Louvre.

In sartorial terms, this translated into linear silhouettes cut at three levels: short, mid-calf or long: "It's very straight and the only curve is the sleeve and that's that," said Jacobs.

Models floated in pairs down the escalators onto a white and yellow grid, in matching suits and dresses of black, moss green, lemon yellow or maroon, but with a varying cut and pattern: large or small checks, long or short.

"It's a moving pattern, it's a rhythm and a pattern and it's a mathematical equation," summed up Jacobs.

After the checks came an abstract Japanese-inspired foliage motif, and for evening time, dresses and suits with shimmering with thousands of tiny sequins -- the smallest ever produced according to Jacobs.

"They all upped their game this time"

Vuitton's was the last major show of the nine-day Paris fashion collections, themselves considered the creative high point of the style marathon that passes twice a year through New York, London and Milan.

This year's shows were dominated by a twin debut -- that of the Belgian Raf Simons as Dior's new ready-to-wear designer, and of Hedi Slimane at the house of Yves Saint Laurent.

Did they deliver on their promise? Yes, is the short answer based on the fashionista buzz and influential show reviews, with Dior coming out a hair's breadth ahead.

"A triumph of 20th-century modernism" was how the New York Times' Suzy Menkes described Simons' reworking of Dior's silhouette while the fashion trade bible Women's Wear Daily called the collection "dazzling".

As for Slimane, while the Saint Laurent old guard, including the late designer's former partner Pierre Berge, were ecstatic about his rock 'n' roll revival of the house DNA, the reviews were more circumspect.

"Perhaps Mr Slimane can use the YSL codes next season to move forward from homage to something more dynamic," summed up Menkes.

But observers agreed the buzz surrounding Dior and YSL had a knock-on effect on the runways.

"I'm sure all the designers are very tuned in and probably excited and apprehensive about what's coming," Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion at Bergdorf Goodman, the New York luxury department store, told AFP.

"On the other hand it causes everyone to up their game, and that's good for everyone.

"Paris has been really exciting, we've seen some unexpected things," she said, like the American Rick Owens working "in clouds and airiness" or Gareth Pugh who "played with romanticism versus his more armoured, edgy pieces".

Jean-Jacques Picart, a top French luxury industry consultant, also detected a Raf and Hedi effect.

"On the whole everyone gave the best of themselves, either confirming what they usually do, or evolving, like Givenchy which was more couture, lighter."

"Celine brought a little more softness, there were nice surprises at Roland Mouret, a confident collection at Kenzo from the Opening Ceremony duo."

Picart also singled out "a great ease" at Balenciaga, and "the irony of Alber Elbaz's show for Lanvin" -- whose tuxedo theme was a sly nod at the commotion surrounding Saint Laurent, master of the woman's smoking.

by Emma Charlton

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