What happens when two creative talents collide? Magic happens. In this worldwide exclusive,goes ‘backstage’ at the Spring/Summer 2015 show with Louis Vuitton artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière and his mentor and photographic genius, Jean-Paul Goude
‘Hey, Nicolas, get on the model, she’s late! It’s already 5am!’ ‘Nicolas, look at your line-up and make sure everything’s okay.’ ‘Nicolas, the show’s about to begin. It’s 10! Are the girls ready? Come on, let’s go!’ Nicolas Ghesquière hops to every friendly but firm command made by Jean-Paul Goude, who is directing him on this ambitious shoot, where he has turned the frenetic ambience of backstage into a studio before the Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show. It’s the type of intimate yet lively scene favoured by this photographer, who loves to heighten the behind-the-scenes drama of the build-up, from early morning to show time. Make-up, hairstyling, who wears what. But here, there’s no deadline stress. Everything is fake and the atmosphere is playful and laid-back. Ghesquière is having fun and submitting to Goude’s clever pranks. ‘There’s a before and after Jean-Paul in my life.
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He forged my sense of aesthetics as a teenager; it’s an integral part of who I am. It’s a dream come true that our visions and personalities have become one. It’s truly a gift.’ In fact, it’s like a one-year anniversary gift. One year ago, his debut show was a highly charged occasion, rife with speculation: what would Ghesquière’s message be after 16 years under the reign of the charismatic Marc Jacobs? What would Ghesquière’s voice be after a year of silence following his departure from Balenciaga, where he had worked for 15 years? Well, the mood was clearly upbeat; blockbuster figures have just come in. A record number of magazine covers sported Vuitton fashions (90 in three months). Record-breaking popularity on social media, which is now the yardstick for measuring a brand’s success, with 1.23 million likes of just 21 posts during the month of October. ‘It’s a good sign of recognition for my work,’ says Ghesquière, ‘and a real sign of kindness, too.
I feel welcome.’ Ghesquière has remained faithful to his own personal slogan: ‘Never forget that what is timeless today was at one time new.’ This is illustrated by a collection of clothing that, while having a whi of familiarity, conveys a captivating sense of novelty and pure creativity. ‘At Vuitton,’ he says, ‘I want my work to seem like an “obvious” wardrobe, to come across as a familiar closet to which I can add a fashionable statement. I like authenticity – the emotional aspect that we bring to certain items. Taking our expertise to new levels is an unassailable sign of luxury. Vuitton endlessly ventures back and forth between the past and the expected future. I have a clearcut objective. I’m asked to gain recognition and pave new ground, and I’m never criticised for repeating concepts from one collection to another, because you have to make your statement, develop a certain personality and remain faithful to it.’ He must also align his concepts with the founding vision of Louis Vuitton, who created his house in 1854. ‘I’m very attuned to the personality of Louis Vuitton, who, like me, was a self-taught man.
His creativity grew out of eorts to improve his trunks. His vision is unique and his solutions reflect a creative model that is his and his alone, which I find inspiring and touching.’ One solution was the ‘petite malle’, the bag introduced at the first show and often featured at subsequent shows, with slight changes. This small treasure chest was immediately singled out as a crave-worthy object of desire; barely one season after its debut, it had achieved the status of ‘house classic’. Ghesquière says: ‘I didn’t see it as a smaller-sized version of a trunk, but as a modern fusion of iconic trunks. It’s a question of scale.
The “petite-malle” was designed in response to the scale of contemporary life. The idea is to maintain a consistent message into the 21st century.’ It’s a self-assured Ghesquière, still driven by his unyielding determination, who is now beginning his second year at Vuitton. He says he feels comfortable at the fashion house. He notes that his sabbatical year gave him the strength to ‘get his head straightened out’. It also gave him time to think about his aesthetic. ‘I sat down – something I hadn’t done since I joined Jean Paul Gaultier at the age of 18. That year taught me to organise my thoughts.’ He took responsibility for ‘this deadline job that requires your honesty and your heart and soul. You never have the right to say, “I don’t know.” And yet I’ve achieved something essential!’ And what is that? ‘Freedom of thought.