Retrospective Look, Carousel, Louis Vuitton SS12

Louis Vuitton SS12 via Harper's Bazaar UK

(Image via Harper’s Bazaar UK. For all images, click for caption and gallery view.)

I wasn’t intending to do an entire post on the Louis Vuitton SS12 carousel show (or at least, not immediately) but since Paris Fashion Week have been thinking a lot about Marc Jacobs’s ability not only to surprise his audience but to create clothes that reflect different aspects of the bright-dark spectrum. Of course, he is doing this at the highest end of ready-to-wear, but the impact filters down to the high street and to street style, which saw a new focus on confectionery-like dresses and blouses for spring in the wake of this show, not to mention bouffant up-dos held in place by sparkly Alice bands.

The SS12 carousel show came after the AW11 fetish collection, and both shows placed Kate Moss in star position, the last model to exit, in AW11 controversially smoking a cigarette as she walked, in laced-up fetishistic black knee-high boots, high-waisted tailored pants and an embellished jacket with guipure-like cut-out leather bodice, Peter Pan collar, large buttons and oversized textured fur sleeves emphasising her waist, tiny leather gloves, and the ubiquitous Alice band-mask in her hair (which reappeared on Edie Campbell’s cap for SS14). With its Peter Pan collars, big buttons and 1960s shapes, the SS12 collection was not as far removed from AW11 as might be thought at first glance, even though the palette, fabrics, embellishment and overall aesthetic was so different (more Mary Poppins than The Night Porter).

(Images via Vogue)

In a telling short Vogue video piece in which they discuss the SS12 collection, Jacobs and his right-hand woman, stylist Katie Grand, both discuss wanting to explore the idea of ‘sweetness’ after AW11 (Grand also notes the idea of doing the opposite of what had come before, which Jacobs talks about in ‘The Louis Vuitton Woman’ interview, which I refer and link to below.) In the Vogue piece, interviewer Tim Blanks tells Jacobs that recently he’d had a conversation with Miuccia Prada in which she’d said that fashion is scared of sweetness. Jacobs responds: ‘There’s no-one I believe in more than she’… acknowledging that sweetness and niceness are disparaged, and mentioning the words fragile, vulnerable, tender, and how those things are not thought of as strengths but weaknesses. He discusses how they started the collection by thinking about light, airiness, ‘colours that are pleasant and kind,’ and what that could mean in terms of dressing for spring. The carousel idea reminded him of  the fair held in the Tuileries garden in springtime, a moment when things seem possible. (So why not, in terms of sweetness in fashion?)

An astonishing show, theatrical and magical, as Tyrone Lebon’s short film, ‘Louis Vuitton SS12, Backstage for Love Magazine’ captures; with the carousel and forty-eight models seated on horses all hidden until the start of the show under a white curtain, which was raised to the sound of crystalline music (which also featured at the very start of the SS14 show). The clothes and accessories were exquisite garments of ice-cream coloured pastels with navy accents, but if you looked closely, hadn’t lost the established Vuitton edge: pointy silver capped shoes,  alligator biker jackets with zips, and the high-waisted pants still present, this was the antithesis certainly of the provocative AW11 collection, but the sixties aesthetic, in oversized sleeves, Peter Pan collars, Alice bands, heavy-lidded make-up and pale skin, was still a feature, and gave the collection its reference point in terms of era.

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(Images via Vogue)

I would imagine that for many of the buyers, editors, photographers and journalists present, this aesthetic probably made them think of photographs from the 60s of their mothers in spring- and summer garb, on beaches and in the countryside, whether in Europe or further afield, with kohl-eyes and bouffant hair in headscarves chicly and nonchalantly tied. Looking at such photos, which always seem so carefree, it is easy to imagine an apparently more innocent time. Or at least, this is what the SS12 Vuitton collection made me think of, at first at least.

The ice-cream palette, with its navy additions, in dresses, coats, shirts and playsuits, with elements of broderie anglaise, guipure lace, transparent layers, appliqué and laser-cut patterns, sequin and feather embellishment, was (as widely noted at the time) more couture-like than ready-to-wear. In a revealing pre-show interview from October 2011, ‘The Louis Vuitton Woman,’ Jacobs speaks of the need for change in fashion, and of many ‘really interesting and… sort of challenging’ conversations with Mr. Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH; attempts to establish who ‘she’ was, this Vuitton woman, within the pattern of seasonal changes in fashion. When pressed, he reveals that he didn’t design for or think of any one ‘Vuitton woman’  (of course there is an element of PR in this) but said that rather he imagined her as a woman ‘who wants to be seen, wants to be noticed, an extrovert certainly, and strong, whether she’s gentle… youthful or mature,’ and this is something we saw again with SS14 and the appeal to women across the age spectrum.

He also made the point (when referring to the fetish theme of AW11 in the Vogue post-show interview), that ‘it’s not who we are, it’s just how we dress.’

When you apply this to the idea of dressing up, from high end to high street, it shows just how transformative clothes can be.

It will be fascinating to see how he brings this capacity for apparently boundless imagination and re-invention to his eponymous brand, with greater investment planned for the years ahead by LVMH. Certainly, whilst at Vuitton, the fashion-week world was his (and our) playground.

Bisou!

Sinéad

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For full Louis Vuitton SS12 show, see Dazed Digital, ‘Marc Jacobs’s Vuitton: A Visual Journey’ (scroll down).

See also Tyrone Lebon’s atmospheric short film, ‘Louis Vuitton, Backstage for Love Magazine.’

For pre-show interview with Jacobs, see ‘The Louis Vuitton Woman.’

For post-show interviews with Jacobs, Grand, and others, see Vogue (scroll down for video).

For post AW11-show interviews and commentary, see Vogue (scroll down for video).

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