The transient building created inside the Louvre courtyard looked like something vaguely familiar. That feeling of the inside-turned-outside, the colourful effects, the memories of an artistic creation that shocked traditional French people but was – and indeed is – adored by a younger generation, who could come together in the curving, open space of the courtyard.
But what was the famous Centre Pompidou doing as the brightly lit backdrop to the Louis Vuitton show? As the models appeared along a mezzanine walkway, before turning to show the clothes to the audience, there was a reaction of amazement – even disbelief.
“It’s the beauty of controversy,” said Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.
“It’s interesting to think that the building was so controversial at the time. Then there is the gymnastics of the eyes. It became something so iconic for the Parisian landscape.
“Culturally, it’s a beautiful place – it was when it was built and still is. I love the piazza Beaubourg – to watch the people there. And I thought it was very inspiring to see the building. So that is why we asked to borrow a part of the museum and to create a model of part of the Pompidou.”
Just like that then – if you are Louis Vuitton. And just like that, you can ask one of the Pompidou’s iconic architects to help you make a set for the boldly coloured and decorated outfits shown to a stream of stars – from Jennifer Connelly and her husband Paul Bettany to Mark Ronson, Emma Stone and Alicia Vikander – who later lined up to congratulate the designer.
So what were the clothes to woo the clientele and give the appropriate modernist energy to the Louis Vuitton collection?
Certainly not the camel coats that have been a leitmotif of the autumn/winter 19 collections in all four cities – although there was one beige raincoat decorated with black leather and a streamlined navy coat.
The rest was highly decorated dresses, tops and skirts smothered in flowers, or more sporty pieces such as a jumpsuit, or another superhero top in blocks of colour teamed with black leather trousers.
The designer talked about “the beauty of controversy”, but it was hard to see what was so shocking or disturbing about the multitude of little dresses with frills from neck to bust and more from hips to thighs where the outfits mostly ended.
These beautifully made and colourful pieces were more pretty, youthful party pieces, than the discreet charms of the bourgeoisie. Although they might like the English country garden roses, especially printed on a padded overlay melding flowers.
I admit that on the last day of five weeks of shows, I may not have been at my brightest. But I was baffled by the mad mixes in the shoes, especially the hefty lace-ups and rubber skullcaps – suggesting menace on the streets – and the checkerboard patterns in black and yellow, and the floral frills.
Bags that whizzed with colourful charms swinging from them, or fitted in with the black and white prints, will probably be the superheroes of the collection.
And as Ghesquière said of the Pompidou: “It takes time to understand things and I love that idea that this creation was so criticised at the time and then it became something for every person who likes culture. And so, the eye gets used to it as we evolve.”
So were the LV clothes deliberately focused on their differences?
“I’m not sure it’s a statement, but it’s true that at the end you need clothes to be worn and not just for pictures,” said the designer.
“It’s really the emotion, the feeling of material as you touch it, the colour. It’s exciting to discover shapes that we don’t know, things that seem new at the time we see it – and sometimes controversial.”
I shall never know if Ghesquière was referring to the building – or to his LV collection.