'What is French style?' ponders Nicolas Ghesquière for AW23
This season, we are breaking down the autumn/winter 2023 collections with a new franchise, The Fashion Week Cheat Sheet. After speaking to designers about their inspiration, their hero pieces, the faces on the catwalk and the names on the front row, we present everything you need to know about AW23.
When deciding what to do with his latest collection for Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière considered the enigma and endless fascination surrounding the question: ‘What is French style?’ But, this wasn’t necessarily a question that he wanted to answer with the collection. Instead, he wanted to explore its many avenues and possibilities, and leave others to draw their own conclusions.
“I’m deliberately leaving the question open,” he told press backstage after the show. “Now that we’ve started travelling again, it is a question that often comes up abroad. It’s still a very present fantasy. French fashion is informed by many cultures. In fact, that is what makes it so special and exemplary.”
Ghesquiere explored these many influences on French style, presenting a collection which he described as “classicism with a twist” – nodding to the tradition and the rich history that informs French fashion, but with a little wink.
Theme and inspiration
“My work never comes from a single source of inspiration,” explains Ghesquiere. “It’s more a sum of ideas, a mixed bag of images and concepts. There’s a successive strata of things that have made an impression on me personally, to which I am attached, and that can illustrate my idea, among others, of a French signature.”
When it comes to defining what this French signature might be, he says: “I don’t want to compile a list or specific inventory. I want to leave the enigma of French style intact.”
He began thinking about this idea in January when he dressed Anne Démians for a prestigious event, where she was being inducted into the Académie des beaux-arts, the first female architect to have this honour. The history and the protocol associated with the event made Ghesquiere think about this idea of French style, and what contributes to its ongoing fascination.
“That’s part of it, the etiquette, the order, maybe even the ceremony. Our history is based on a certain classicism and conventions that are very much part of the legend of Louis Vuitton, a name that also speaks to French culture. It was about transposing that classicism into a pure expression of fashion. How to articulate that French allure, that blend of sophistication and nonchalance that continues to fascinate the entire world.”
This idea of classicism with a twist came through in many ways: “Trompe l'oeil suiting that’s draped as if it were wrapped up. Pearl necklaces as dresses. Coats made with fabrics that look like carbon steel. Peignoirs over faux-fur shorts, off-hand chic…It may look formal but it’s all about movement and extreme suppleness. The boots are also like a little wink, they are hand-painted to look like pumps. The jewellery features little musical instruments, all the brass of a marching band…It’s a collection made of illusions.”
Who was there?
Louis Vuitton’s new artistic director of menswear, Pharrell Williams, was in attendance at the show, and he was joined by the usual Vuitton front-row suspects – Emma Stone, Ana de Armas, Alicia Vikander, Sophie Turner, Deepika Padukone, Chloë Grace Moretz, Phoebe Dynevor and Gemma Chan – as well as a new face for the Vuitton front row, and perhaps a sign of an exciting new fashion contract, the one and only Zendaya.
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