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Louis Vuitton Cruise 2018@susiebubble

Louis Vuitton Cruise was an epic love letter to Japan

Nicolas Ghesquière draws from kabuki and samurai with a surprise collaboration with Kansai Yamamoto – and actress Rila Fukushima on the runway

Japan has been an enduring influence on Western fashion designers, but there are those that simply mine the obvious and then those that truly understand the country’s delicate balance between tradition and modernity. Nicolas Ghesquière falls firmly into the latter category. “It was a big challenge to reflect my love for the country. I hope I rose to it,” he remarked after staging what was decidedly the most ambitious cruise show for Louis Vuitton, both in terms of breadth of design and of course in the location. From John Lautner’s spaceship house in Palm Springs and Oscar Niemeyer’s Niterói Museum in Rio, we arrived at yet another architectural wonder on the outskirts of Kyoto. Nestled in the lush mountain valleys is the impressive glass-roofed Miho Museum, preceded by a cavernous futuristic tunnel inset into the mountain, which formed what looked like the longest runway ever. The architect IM Pei, who designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, once described this valley as a Shangri-La – and for Ghesquière, Japan has also been a Shangri-La of sorts, having frequented the country for over twenty years.

“This show was definitely more emotional,” said Ghesquière. “I’m always amazed by the contrast between how they conserve the history and tradition and at the same, how the country is looking forward and very modern and so we tried to reflect that in the collection.” Sure enough, the traditional woven silks of obi belts were worked into sculptural suiting, leather sweaters were knitted to resemble samurai armour and evening dresses flickered with the gold of Noh theatre.

“It was a big challenge to reflect my love for the country. I hope I rose to it.” – Nicolas Ghesquière

Ghesquière also paid homage to the first Japanese designer ever to show in Paris, by inviting Kansai Yamamoto to lend his motifs and prints for kabuki-masked bags and accessories. Most famed for the curvilinear jumpsuit he created for David Bowie, Yamamoto was also responsible for creating collections that displayed an exuberant and heady interpretation of Japanese motifs. He has always designed with the philosophy of “basara” – a Japanese word meaning “to dress freely” – and that basara attitude was present in abundance here as Ghesquière’s now well-established Louis Vuitton garderobe of seventies-flecked tailoring, shirting with oversized cuffs and updated cowboy boots, was accented with a free-spirited eclecticism. 

Throw in a stylistic reference to the cult erotic thriller film series Stray Cat Rock, depicting female biker gangs and the attitude of actresses Rila Fukushima and Doona Bae, who opened and closed the show and you have yourself an ode to Japan that felt nuanced and complex. Much like the city of Kyoto itself, which show guests got to experience to the max, from temple visits to tête-à têtes with real geisha, as Louis Vuitton impressively commandeered the entire Shinbashi Dori street in the historic Gion district in Kyoto for the after show cocktail and dinner. “What I love about Kyoto is the ritual and mystery of it. You don’t get in those doors and houses very easily. It’s a city of many, many layers.”

If you missed the show you can watch again here