Dark Star Showgirls: Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton SS14

(Images via Vogue. For all images, click to enlarge and for gallery view.)

Marc Jacobs’s final show for Louis Vuitton on Wednesday 2 October was a spellbinding nocturne fantasy in jet-black and navy. Showgirls in extraordinary peacock- and pheasant-feathered headdresses by milliner Stephen Jones walked to what felt like a Philip Glass soundtrack (details yet to be released), funereal to begin with, then insistent and uplifting, on a set which brought together elements from past Jacobs-for-Vuitton shows, now painted lacquered black. A Place de la Concorde-like fountain, carousel, hotel doors opening onto an upper landing, escalators and ornamental caged lifts with obliging doormen: all present.

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Edie Campbell opened the show, with incredible poise and arms held aloft; strings of jet jewels attached to her wrists, with more than a nod to the AW11 Fetish Collection. Almost completely naked but adorned with glittering black Stephen Sprouse-graffiti body paint spelling out Louis Vuitton Paris, this look jubilantly declared the success of the Jacobs-Sprouse collaboration, beginning in 2001, which saw Vuitton’s classic bags splashed in Sprouse’s graffiti logo. The logo now stands for many things: Jacobs’s irreverent approach, his moment of  ‘arrival’ and the beginnings of cult-brand success for Vuitton.

A navy and black chequered sheepskin-covered set gave the impression of an abandoned grassy Belle Epoque fairground, or a neglected corner of demi-monde Paris and cleverly referenced the classic Vuitton Damier (chessboard) pattern; also of course the ready-to-wear SS13 collection.  A scaled-down version of the SS12 carousel, in glittering black, revolved in the background, with more headdress-wearing, sheer-and-jet-black clothed showgirls sitting on the horses, holding ostrich-plume fans. The Place de la Concorde-like fountain (a theme of AW10) took centre stage, somehow reminiscent of the ballet-finale set of an American in Paris but in monochrome, with the isolation of iconic Parisian images in the service of this classic luggage brand, totally re-invented during the sixteen-year tenure of Jacobs as a fashion house both achingly cool and exquisitely wearable.

(Images via Vogue)

In front of the fountain, Jacobs’s models, in cutaway lattice tunics, sheer body suits and tank dresses overlaid with jet embellishment, delicate art deco panelling, embroidery, petit pois voile, and full-length bias cut dresses straight from the 1930s brushed against girls in jeans and luxe sportswear, with neat boxy or military jackets cropped close to the body and embellishments of jet, stones and feathers, as if the girls had discovered vintage gems in their grandmother’s trunks in the attic and tried precious pieces on over the top of their jeans. And now didn’t want to take them off. Like, ever. The girls carried mini drawstring bucket bags, and wore flat alligator-skin ankle and biker boots. In certain looks, delicate Victorian jet embellishment gave way to punky chains attached to waistbands, and again, the fetish theme resurfaced in the lace-up fastening of one pair of trousers where otherwise would have been placed a zip or buttons.

(Images via Vogue)

Embellishment was everywhere: feathers, beading, stones, on shoulders, sheer panels, over voile and on crepe. If the sense of time passing in reverse was clearly apparent from the backwards-ticking Vuitton clock (Jacobs’s departure from Vuitton had been strongly rumoured in preceding weeks, and was confirmed immediately after this show), then Jacobs was hurtling with his 1930s showgirls into the future, bringing with them timeless embellishment, the traditional jet of Victorian mourning and the patterned Art Nouveau wallpaper decorating the upper landing. The entire lift sequence was evocative of such mixing of references and eras: girls rising in a caged lift, a lift only opened by doormen, then descending to the fairground again, independently, on ultra-modern escalators.

There were homages to Miuccia Prada’s jewel-embellished black dresses, coats and jackets; to Chanel and Schiaparelli; I also thought of the first half of Alexander McQueen’s AW08 show:

Macio Madeira VOGUE.com aw08

(Image via Vogue)

This was a show which not only showed off the superficial, the decorative approach, which Jacobs insisted on in his show statement, but went much deeper, in spite of Jacobs’s nonchalance. Design traditions, hand-stitched jewels and beading, deco cut-out patterns, 1930s style evening gowns, tunic dresses with epaulettes, cornflower-blue jeans, both fitted and boyfriend style, slouchy pants, biker boots, luxe sportswear, cropped leather jackets:  all were brought together through Jacobs’s sombre palette and celebratory approach to embellishment, Katie Grand’s impeccable styling, Pat McGrath’s gorgeous fresh-faced but dark-browed make-up, Guido Palau’s un-fussy hair styling with messy buns and wisps of hair caught in the headdresses, and  by Jones’s extraordinary feathered creations, which according to Vogue, required a 2:30 a.m. call time (for a 10 a.m. show).

Jacobs’s written statement also highlighted his female inspirations for the collection, past and present; the collection was dedicated to them ‘and to the showgirl in every one of them’: Schiaparelli, Chanel, Vreeland, Piaf, Garland, Streisand, Cher, Wintour, Coddington, Prada, Alt, Coppola, Moss, Grand and many others, thirty-four in total. This list illustrates the thinking behind the collection’s very wearable and beautifully cut pieces. Aimed both at potentially conservative mature clients (beautiful full- and bracelet-length, sleeved, tunic-style, below-the-knee dresses, Kate Hepburn trousers, boxy jackets) and the younger set (cropped navel-baring jackets, sheer embellished panels, biker boots, jeans, slouchy trousers; the fetish references), it also transcends categories and age brackets by giving us what we always came to Jacobs’s Vuitton shows to see: a fantasy moment, signalled here by the set, the soundtrack, the extravagantly poetic, almost fairy-tale, headpieces and stunning embellishment of the collection itself.

(Images via Vogue)

Jacobs’s showgirls circulated proudly, like creatures belonging to another world, but  – as Jacobs and Vuitton know only too well – it is one that can be accessed in an imaginary way through dressing up. Celebrating fantasy-through-dress, the final look of the show included a bustle made of pheasant feathers, as if a tail was emerging from the back of a jacket. (This was not captured in the catwalk photographs, but can be seen in the show video, linked to below.) This look seemed to suggest a metamorphosis of sorts, as is so often the case in fashion, and certainly now for Jacobs as he leaves Vuitton to focus on his own brand (which is owned by Jacobs, long-term business partner Robert Duffy and LVMH), in advance of its IPO in the next three years.

This show was firmly focused on a fantasy of dressing up and embellished luxury mediated through the theme of the colours of mourning. It was the through-the-looking-glass reflection of SS12 ‘s carousel of bright star Alices: Jacobs’s dramatic, jet-black, peacock-feathered, dark star moment.  For Jacobs it was a fantasy on a theme; the theme: his personal showgirl let loose in the Vuitton fairground.

Before the next adventure, his final dedication?

‘To the showgirl in all of us.’

A stunning exit.

Bisou!

Sinéad

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For full show video, see Louis Vuitton SS14.

For short video featuring post-show comments from Marc Jacobs, Stephen Jones, Katie Grand, Susie Bubble and others, see Vogue.

For beautifully shot short film ‘Love presents Louis Vuitton SS14, Behind the scenes’ see The Love Magazine.

Below: Photos, Lea Colombo, via Dazed Digital.

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