LOUIS VUITTON - SERIES 3 EXHIBITION
Nicolas Ghesquière: less mask, more man
by Greg French
If Somerset House was mourning the loss of its fashion crowd following the departure of London Fashion Week to Soho's Brewer Street Car park - it need look no further than a stones throw away to 180 The Strand for a serving of nostalgia. In case you'd missed the wave of advertising by Juergen Teller that has swept the city and the pages of its publications, the building is currently playing host to the inner workings of the mind of Louis Vuitton creative director - Nicolas Ghesquière - until 18th October 2015.
Vuitton have a history of not shying away from big budget production. Note, the $8 million steam train that took centre stage in the AW13 show or the noir swan song set for Marc Jacobs. The Series 3 show is no exception - a dazzling labyrinth of mise-en-scene - telling the various stages of development for Ghesquière's AW15 offering. The cavernous entrance hall, complete with gigantic, ceiling bound polygon mesh, acts as indicator to the scale and expense that the company have clearly invested in the show.
The room gives way to a digital panorama - which pulsates with a disorientating series of mirrored videos telling the 'Past. Present. Future' of the Parisian fashion label (a trio of words that are referenced throughout the show). Suspended in the middle is the iconic Louis Vuitton trunk - the luggage item which has formed the backbone of the company since it started back in 1854. The reason for its iconic LV-monogrammed exterior? "For son Louis to prove his worth and success to his father of course".
For all the hi-tech and multi-sensory wizardry (there is even a futuristic laser room that mimics the intricate cutting that goes into the making of that aforementioned trunk) - those rooms seem to, like Louis' initials on that luggage item, appear as a peacocking of the house's might amongst the fashion industry. The Moët-Hennessy to the Louis Vuitton if you will.
By far the most interesting rooms are occupied by members of the atelier themselves, beavering away under Big Brother-esque cameras that magnify the delicate handy work that goes into the making of those bags and trunks - 30 hours of labour to be precise. The wardrobe room too, houses the precious garment offerings of Series 3, and whilst some are available to touch - the majority are housed in a transparent armoire - a silent fashion zoo that, for all the other room's intents and purposes, comes the closest to showing the inner musings and design aptitude of Nicolas.
With the rise of the fashion exhibition, its role has come into question - poised ambiguously between creative informer and PR stunt. Take the V&A's Savage Beauty for example, a retrospective of the late Lee McQueen. The show sold over 480,000 tickets by the time it closed in early August this year - far outweighing the attendance of the latest Turner Prize or its predecessor David Bowie exhibition, which came in at around 311,000 visitors. The fashion exhibition is able to engulf us in the silent world embedded in every stitch of the designer's final garment, bringing it together in vibrant and mesmerising Technicolor. But, is there a more ubiquitous undertone? Definitely. Especially when shown in the context of a still-practicing designer.
Perhaps it has something to do with the charming French tour guides dotted around the show - of course clad in Vuitton, I asked - or the expensive looking poster and monogrammed stickers that are given to the public as gifts at the end of the exhibition; I couldn't help but leave with an unwavering and unnecessary desire to purchase one of those trunk bags, as opposed to with a glimpse into the mind of one of fashion's core vanguard. Not that I have a problem with that. Fashion, after all is about selling, and this exhibition, behind the smoke and mirrors is really about doing just that. Whether through references to the past or fantastical theatrics in the present - the intrigue that that balance creates, keeps us always guessing, or for Louis Vuitton, Ghesquière-ing after the house's future. Because well, something's gotta' pay off that steam train, hasn't it?
Take a look at the visual exploration by Nicolas Ghesquière, interpreted by Juergen Teller. www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAKcZ5A9OXI