“Sailing at the Salk Institute was putting the ocean, the desert, the sun at the heart of the Vuitton collection”

Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of women's collections at Louis Vuitton.

On Thursday, May 12, Louis Vuitton presented his Cruise 2023 fashion show to more than 650 guests at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, which hosts hundreds of top researchers in biomedicine and neuroscience in a magnificent brutalist building. , built in 1965 by Louis Kahn. Two elegant concrete blocks around a water garden, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the sunset, which hosted a fashion show for the first time. A few hours before the event, Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director of the women’s collections, gave us the underside of this project.

Why parade at the Salk Institute in San Diego?

In the last two years with Covid, I’ve spent time in California. I had in my head the image of the Salk Institute, which I told myself would be a beautiful place for a cruise, but I had never been able to see it in real life because access is reserved for researchers. We made a request for a visit, which was granted. So a parade wish, which was also accepted! It’s a dream come true, I’m very lucky.

What do you like about this place?

It is a very strong, almost spiritual place that encourages meditation. We see the sunset, the sky, the sea. It is also full of meaning as we are working on it for the future of humanity, which is not a small project. Finally, I find it important that such a research site welcomes us, us, fashion, while we have the image of a great superficial industry. The people of Salken are curious about what creation can represent, and many of them will participate in the parade.

Is this the first time the Salk Institute is hosting a fashion show?

Yes, there were photo shoots, commercial shots, concerts, movie shots, but this is the first parade. It is an absolute fantasy to be able to be here. The institute’s founder Jonas Salk and architect Louis Kahn wanted to create a beautiful place to think about the future. The building is often associated with the brutalist movement of the 60s, but I find it totally timeless. And the idea of ​​timelessness touches me a lot, me whose task is to try to be relevant to each new collection and if possible to mark in the longer term. [l’histoire de la mode].

Salk Institute and its geometric lines, in San Diego.

What does it mean to be relevant in fashion?

Today, it is capturing the attention of a large number of people while celebrating individuality. There’s a new way to experience fashion: People dress the way they want, without respecting codes. The designer is no longer there to impose dictates, but to come up with proposals that everyone will adapt or transform.

Has the place influenced the collection?

Absolutely. When we were lucky enough to get a positive response early enough from Salken, I had time to imagine the story I was going to tell. The collection tells the story of the sea, the desert and the sun, which are the guest of honor in this show. She also tells about the people who live in this place: What struck me here during a first visit was seeing people from campus in white coats meeting surfers returning from the beach.

How did you translate it into clothes?

The collection begins with a desert wardrobe in very raw and natural materials: linen, wool, cotton … These are draped pieces, quite voluptuous. Little by little, outfits that reflect light appear in metallic copper, gold and silver materials. We find the reflection of the sun in the water through an embroidery that over time will oxidize and change color. We come across jackets inspired by jet skis, technical elements of water sports. The parade ends with boleroes in micro lurex fringes resembling dragons.

The opulence of the clothes contrasts with the sobriety of the place …

The building is made so the focus is on the sky and there is nothing sober about the sunset! At the rehearsal, the day before the show, the completely scorched sky reminded me of Akira Kurosawa’s film.

This is your first cruise show with an audience in two years. Can we talk about a return to normal?

Not really, because I approach things differently. I’ve always enjoyed doing fashion shows, but now I know it can stop. I enjoy the moment more. And then I feel a greater sense of freedom than before: I feel uninhibited about the creative side of this job, I completely accept the idea of ​​doing things that make me happy.

Vuitton, the finale of the Cruise 2023 show.

Do you no longer think about the commercial potential of a piece?

It is integrated. Sometimes I mess up and it’s never perfect. But with Vuitton, I have learned that often, when the intention is pure, the return is good. It’s up to me to place the marker of creativity. I try not to analyze too much: I tell myself that if I want to go far, then I go. And that, I think, is so much the more important in an industry that keeps growing, so much so that it sometimes makes you dizzy.

Also read: Louis Vuitton’s Pacific Zones

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