The Miho Museum in Japan is 9,628km from its Paris headquarters, but Louis Vuitton was founded to make expensive luggage, and glamorous globetrotting is very much the point.
The vogue among powerhouse brands for staging elaborate catwalk events showcasing their cruise collections continued this weekend with Louis Vuitton’s show at the museum, as famed for its spectacular setting in the Shigaraki mountains as for its collection of Japanese antiquities.
Cruise fashion has always been about status. Conceived to service a luxury customer for whom every holiday demanded a flamboyant new wardrobe, the cruise concept has become an elite catwalk showdown between the world’s premier fashion houses.
The hundreds of guests who flew in from all over the world to attend the show, including the actors Michelle Williams and Jennifer Connelly, were driven from their Kyoto hotels to the venue by chauffeurs wearing Louis Vuitton-monogrammed driving gloves.
The Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière has staged each of his cruise shows at a far-flung architectural landmark. This time, the show was held at the entrance to the Miho Museum, where a metal tunnel emerges from verdant mountainside and runs across a suspension bridge. The bridge – designed by IM Pei, who created the Louvre’s glass pyramid – formed the catwalk for the show on Sunday.
“The place inspired me right away,” Ghesquière said of the venue. It is the latest stop after the Oscar Neimeyer-designed Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and the previous year’s visit to the Bob Hope estate in Palm Springs, on what he calls “an architectural voyage”.
In sleek tailoring, graphic prints, short hemlines and dramatic makeup, models strode the catwalk strung between mountains like avatars in an impossibly chic virtual world. Japanese elements were fused into the collection, from embroidered dragons to kimono-style belts. Prints were designed in collaboration with the cult designer Kansai Yamamoto, most famous for the jumpsuits he created for David Bowie’s onstage persona as Ziggy Stardust.
The Louis Vuitton event came days after Christian Dior staged a Georgia O’Keefe-inspired show in California’s Santa Monica Mountains, and a fortnight after Karl Lagerfeld recreated the Parthenon inside the Grand Palais for Chanel.
Reflecting the growing importance of cruise, Prada staged a standalone show for its collection for the first time this year, in the brand’s new Milan exhibition space. In a fortnight, Gucci will take over the Palatina Gallery in Florence for a catwalk show that, honouring its €2m (£1.7m) donation to restore the city’s Boboli Gardens, will double as a celebration of the Italian brand’s cultural largesse.
With its romantic locations, star-studded audiences and a programme of functions extended over several days, a cruise show is now closer to the model of a festival such as Coachella, or a celebrity wedding in the style of George and Amal Clooney’s Venice nuptials, than to the traditional fashion week catwalk show.
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