PARIS, France — The pattern on today’s invitation announced a significant new addition to the Louis Vuitton family. The Monogram Eclipse is the first time the company has had a black logo in its 162-year history. It set the tone for a collection that had an undertow of dark allure, ably assisted by its lushly sombre colour palette and its striking casting. Many of the models looked like they could have been White Russian princelings in another life, washing up in Paris on a wave of revolution at home. They had clothes and accessories to match: dandy tailoring, languid jersey overcoats, and trench-coats belted with fur, ravishing shearlings, silver necklaces, and a whole history-book of Jade Jagger designed charms studding the silk scarves that wrapped their throats.
After last season’s nod to Vuitton’s London roots, Kim Jones wanted to celebrate Paris, to mark his fifth year with the company. His Paris was romantic, infused with the spirit of the artists, aesthetes and aristocrats in exile who fed the city’s creative fervour over the past century. The ghost of Cocteau hovered in the scribbles on silk shirts. The artful use of old trunk stamps as new branding was a reminder of the romance of travel that has always been LV’s calling card. You think of faraway times, you dream of faraway places. Jones certainly does. In the 1920s, mountains in the Himalayas loaned their names to the patterns on the blankets that wrapped the legs of bright young things as they roared through the Bois in their Hispano-Suiza. Jones translated those patterns into flannel coats and blousons. His use of a technique like Roketsu — wax and indigo combining to create a crackled finish on a handful of denim pieces — had the ineffable cred of traditional Japanese artisanship, something that also contributed to Vuitton’s own traditions. Of course, Jones is acutely aware of those too. He’s become remarkably adept at delving into Vuitton’s archives to ferret out the exquisite, the forgotten.
But he is not only a master intuitor of Vuitton’s past, the history that is currently honoured with a huge — and hugely successful — exhibition at the Grand Palais. The man who turned LV black did, after all, name this latest collection Future Heritage. The ghosts of the elegant past walked amongst boys from a grittier present, in military-influenced parkas, in khaki mesh tees, in jeans. There’s still romance there, but it’s the urgent romance of the young. And, throughout his career, Jones has always been just as good at capturing that as he is at designing the perfect camera-bag or re-purposing a little Art Deco doodad for the 21st century.