The space age is back next season – on Bond Street, at least. A nostalgia which has embraced 70s bohemia and 90s minimalism is making way for an intergalactic aesthetic, with Louis Vuitton the latest fashion power player to turn his catwalk into a spaceship.
A hit combination of Louis Vuitton’s Parisian glamour and the brutalist flying saucer desert chic of the late Bob Hope’s Palm Springs estate threatened to break Instagram on Wednesday as designer Nicolas Ghesquière staged his new cruise-season collection in the John Lautner-designed house built for the comedian in 1973 – and on the market for m (£16m).
Fifty looks, from sandy Star Wars-esque flowing robes to Xena the Warrior Princess-style hotpants, took a sunset parade around the swimming pool, where giant Perspex speaker towers and towering palm trees were dotted among guests seated with views over the Coachella valley.
The house, a monumental 23,000 sq ft, features a giant oculus at its centre, which draws the eye skywards from the UFO-style concrete curves to the vast expanse of Californian blue above – and hints at the worlds beyond that. It is an epic, Hollywood-sized version of the smaller silver domes next to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which Ghesquière commissioned for his previous show two months ago.
Futuristic architecture is the standout trend in fashion this spring, with catwalk shows staged in ahead-of-their-time landmarks. Last week, Chanel staged a bubblegum-toned, K-Pop influenced show in Seoul, at Zaha Hadid’s curvilinear Dongdaemun Design Plaza. On Monday, Christian Dior will show in the Palais Bulles near Cannes, a retro-futuristic cluster of bubble-shaped rooms balanced on a seaside waterfall, the one-time summer mansion of designer Pierre Cardin.
Such self-declared affinity with space-age architecture is a bold statement of intent and ambition from fashion brands which for decades have proudly upheld the whitewashed, high-windowed salons of the Avenue Montaigne as the ultimate expression of elegance. The move is a vivid visual representation of a leap into the unknown for names which are rooted in the past but have far-reaching ambitions for the digital age.
This space-age synergy between catwalk shows being staged thousands of miles apart is all the more striking since it unites luxury brands which are fierce rivals for the same consumers. But this reflects the way in which, as the global fashion industry has expanded and fashion weeks have become more accessible, the most powerful names in luxury have broken free to create an unofficial Champions League level of elite catwalk events.
This is an arena in which only the wealthiest names compete, in which expensive stunts – hiring the world’s most expensive houses, luring supermodels out of retirement – are par for the course. Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Burberry now each stage lavish, celebrity-filled catwalk extravaganzas, as well as taking part in the regular round of fashion weeks.
Burberry visited Shanghai last year, on the launch of a flagship store, and recently staged a lavish show in Los Angeles aimed at elevating its name in the spiritual home of the red carpet.
The expense of such events sets the luxury giants apart from the individual designers who take part in the London, New York, Paris and Milan catwalk rosters. Louis Vuitton flew VIP guests including Catherine Deneuve – whose cult 1983 vampire movie with David Bowie, The Hunger, was cited by Ghesquière as an influence – to Palm Springs, and are reported to have paidfor 3,000 luxury hotel room nights in the resort, in addition to the production costs of the show.
The vogue for strikingly photogenic venues also reflects the rising power of Instagram, which demands a 360-degree experience which attendees – some of whom are invited because of their social media reach – can then showcase.
But the new vogue for the space-age also reflects the profound impact Ghesquière is having on the luxury world two years after his appointment at Louis Vuitton. The avant-garde, futuristic aesthetic which Ghesquière championed in his previous role at Balenciaga is being given a wider platform at the bigger brand, where the look reaches a global audience far beyond the Paris fashion week faithful.
For the jet-set customer, for whom the charms of Aspen and Positano have perhaps faded with ennui, the space-age represents the excitement of a newly aspirational frontier.
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