Virtual Meets Reality at Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2021 Show

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As the final show of Paris Fashion Week – and therefore of Fashion Month – every season, Louis Vuitton had the distinct honor of being the last large gathering of fashion insiders before all hell broke loose. Many of us returned home from Paris to immediate quarantine situations, fearing the worst as we doomscrolled the Internet for news and developments on the pandemic from lockdown. But just before the darkness descended, Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière offered a moment of reprieve. The Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2020 show was rapturously beautiful, backed by a stadium of choral singers clothed in historical dress from the 15th century all the way to the 1950s. It was a sonorous display that guests and gawkers couldn’t stop discussing, even when the world turned upside down. 

Paradoxically, as one of fashion’s most future-oriented designers – whose influence and legacy will echo in fashion for decades to come – Ghesquière has a distinct knack for reinventing the past. Previous seasons have seen homages to La Belle Époque (Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2020) – the creative period of Paris that so many artists and dreamers voyaged to the City of Lights to discover – and to the courts of Louis XIV where an astonishing blend of 18th century frocks and street style sneakers combined for the most unlikely of marriages (Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2018). 

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

With many of us forced to watch the shows from home, and fewer of the fashion pack traveling to Paris Fashion Week than ever before, Louis Vuitton seized another moment to innovate. In doing so, Ghesquière once again braided together the past and the future, with a stunning set at La Samaritaine department store – which, incidentally, was just refurbished by LVMH. Against gilded, baroque interiors, green screens were juxtaposed, and the virtual-meets-reality presentation was completed by 360-degree camera angles that dipped the viewer right into the scenario. Projected on the screens, we instantly recognized Wim Wenders 1987 film Wings of Desire, which transformed the space – including the floor – into an immersive cinematic experience. 

For Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2021, the beauty is in the balance.

To stand out against this disorientingly wondrous backdrop, models bobbed along in an array of eye-popping ensembles, achieved with vividly printed tees urging onlookers to “VOTE”, oversized turquoise trench coats, cobalt blue basketball shorts, and colorful frocks with bulky arm attachments. Without a doubt, this was a streetwear-centered collection. The show notes dubbed it, “a sensitive zone that erases gender and promises exponential creative possibilities,” allowing Ghesquière the ability to explore non-binary dress codes. Eradicating gender lines meant oversized, fluid silhouettes found in baggy striped trousers, relaxed dusters, cropped hoodies, skater tees, and thick logo-lined high top sneakers. Yet, among these roomy sizes, beautiful tailoring punctuated the looks. There were indulgent sequin suits, slim cut leather trousers, and boxy cropped blazers balancing the mix. 

Louis Vuitton’s most prominent territory, however, is accessories, and for Spring/Summer 2021, new introductions were made in the form of the ‘Chroma key’ bag with an oversized chain strap, the ‘Quicksilver’ in metallic gleam embossed with the LV logo, a tidy little leather bag with gold metal logos called the ‘Parisian Chic’, the thin and precise ‘Blade’ clutch, oversized ‘Bucket’ bags, which came in handsome leathers and golf-course green, and many more. Heels reimagined from Dutch clogs also filled in the accessories line-up. 

While genderless collections – which are by nature more inclusive and democratic – are hardly new in fashion, it’s exciting to see how Ghesquière treats the concept. One must walk a fine line between being inclusive and appealing to a younger, more informed generation, and not losing the sense of house heritage. For Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2021, the beauty is in the balance.

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