Louis Vuitton loosens up with flowing dresses and futuristic boho styles
French marque woos the fashion set with desert hospitality for launch of its cruise 2016 collection in Palm Springs
Guests streamed onto the lawn of the 23,000 sq ft estate in the rugged mountains overlooking Palm Springs - a modernist vision in steel, concrete and glass swept into one structure with a giant curving arch.
These were not your usual Palm Springs residents. The fashion set, dressed to the nines and sipping champagne, had flown in from all corners of the world for one show, Louis Vuitton's second destination cruise catwalk. And for the second time this year - the first being Coachella - fashion eyes were on this quiet pocket of California's Sonoran Desert.
The front row was star studded: actresses Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Williams and Catherine Deneuve, rapper Kanye West and model Miranda Kerr were there, as well as Bernard Arnault, LVMH's chairman and CEO. Being only the second proper cruise show for the French powerhouse brand (a tradition started under its director of women's collections Nicolas Ghesquiere), expectations were high.
Under the grand copper arch of the Bob and Dolores Hope Estate, designed by John Lautner, the models started walking out as the sun began to sink on the horizon. The romantic futurism of the setting was not lost on the guests.
Silhouettes were much looser than Ghesquiere has done before at Louis Vuitton, with flowing dresses tinged with bohemian attitude, loose long skirts, free yet feminine shapes cinched at the waist with wide belts crossed over at the front - some leather and with metal rivets. If most of the outfits were quite covered up, waist and hips were revealed seductively on each side. And long dresses were modernised, with zippers down the front and curious, square-cut fabric collars and sleeves.
It was a look that had some familiar elements but, Ghesquiere's alchemy rendered it bold, fresh and, dare I say it (since it can be a rarity on high-fashion runways), also rather comfortable. As eyes scanned down, we're pleased to report the trend for flats is going nowhere soon, with chunky lace-up boots and even flip-flops.
"The collection was pure and futuristic, just like the location," says Hong Kong-based celebrity stylist Sean Kunjambu who attended the show. "The desert, the cactus and the '70s vibe of the location went well with the collection."
Ghesquiere mastered many textures - romantic prairie dresses revamped with crocheted leathers (now a signature favourite at LV) or studs. Other dresses were in intricate stained glass or chain patterns. Bold, vinyl prints made it onto high-waisted shorts and tribal geometric versions, while shimmering coloured sequins lent a magical sheen.
Toughening up the look were textured bombers that were young, commercial and jaunty. A red, soft-leather dress, frilled at the collar and laser cut with LV's famous four-petal motif was one of those hero pieces that caught the eye of many stylists.
"I loved how [Ghesquiere] put a futuristic element into a boho way of dressing. Those bags are to die for," says Kunjambu.
Later in the evening, a cocktail after-party kicked off in the gardens of the Parker hotel. A surprise awaited guests in a clearing through a maze of hedges: a mini fairground and disco had been set up. Awash in neon lights and loud music, the scene was like a celebration of vintage Americana. Guests let loose, crashing into each other on bumper cars and enjoying Dance Dance Revolution machines at the arcade centre. Others formed a line to play the claw machine, which offered LV pouches and purses as prizes.
This kind of destination gala is becoming popular among the biggest luxury fashion brands. Chanel led the way years ago; Dior did something similar in Cannes, and Gucci will soon follow suit.
Away from fast and furious fashion weeks, where the democratisation of fashion makes it seem a lot less exclusive than before, the expensive endeavours of destination pre-collection shows have become a key spot on the calendar for monopolising the attention of VIPs and press.