At one point in recent fashion history, Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière was revered as a god. Every celebrity wanted to be dressed by him, and more importantly, every stylist coveted the larger-than-life gowns he created at Balenciaga, where he was hired as creative director in 1997. I still have his Spring/Summer 2001 campaign, shot by Inez and Vinoodh, hanging on my wall, and frequently browse eBay looking for the Balenciaga pieces Kylie Minogue wore during her “Body Language” era circa 2003. (Including the blouse dress and crimson moto-pants seen in her “Red Blooded Woman” video.)
In the 15 years he designed for Balenciaga, his status as the god of fashion was rightly deserved, as he pioneered adventurous silhouettes and extreme proportions, and ushered in a new age in womenswear. When the house announced his departure in 2012, the news shocked many. That surprise only deepened when—almost a year later—LVMH announced that he would be the new creative director for Louis Vuitton, replacing powerhouse Marc Jacobs. While the prestige that came with the Louis Vuitton moniker was undoubtedly a trade-up for Ghesquière, Jacob’s penchant for risqué designs and playfully sexy clothing (evidenced best by Mariah Carey’s love for his clothes) seemed at odds with the brooding, often overly serious woman Ghesquière had been designing for. In the seven years since taking over the house’s creative direction, I think that suspicion has been undoubtedly proven correct.
While recent seasons have grown increasingly banal in terms of taste, Ghesquière has still managed to consistently grow Louis Vuitton into an all-consuming powerhouse. His strong eye for styling the brand’s accessories and purses—the primary chunk of the brand’s sales—helped raise the high-profile status of the eponymous “LV” monogram print, which fell in popularity amid Jacobs’s late aughts run. These days, it is as covetable as the Gucci logo, and plastered everywhere you find fashion. But while the brand has grown its accessories division, Ghesquière’s designs seem to have plummeted off a creative cliff.
On the most recent Louis Vuitton runway, everything appears to be in order for Ghesquière—outsized proportions, eye-catching colors, intricate leatherwork. Voluminous skirts are paired with sleek moto jackets, as model after model with fierce cheekbones and severe bangs walk blank-faced in single file. They almost look like androids, dressed in armor-like tops that squish the boobs, and skirts so extreme you wonder how the human body could contort itself to wear them functionally.
It’s off the runway where Ghesquière’s real crimes happen. Celebrities and brand ambassadors, although not too far removed from the models on the catwalk, wear carefully hand-selected Louis Vuitton clothes so unbelievably hideous, you can’t imagine how they were designed by the same man whose collection you just witnessed. But celebrities are generally not models, and much closer to the proportions of everyday women that Ghesquière—or any designer—is ostensibly designing for.
The above outfits, on YouTuber Emma Chamberlain and movie stars Florence Pugh and Alicia Vikander respectively, are simply atrocious. The fit of each woman’s outfit is wonky—but Pugh’s pencil skirt and trumpet beaded-camisole are the most galling. I’m perplexed why her stylist, or the handlers at Louis Vuitton, punished her like this. The bottom half looks like something worn by an extra in a“sexy” street racing movie, like those women that wave the flags at the start of a race—objects of male moto-sport fantasy that might not actually exist. The top, meanwhile, looks plucked from the sale rack of an Urban Outfitters, regressive in its similarity to what Gucci was pumping out seasons ago. (And I’m one of the few people who actually liked her Louis Vuitton dress at the Oscars.)
Vikander, meanwhile, is a mishmash of trends that seem purposefully obtuse when paired in such a way. The quilted and collaged skirt, made from the worst dregs of houndstooth and leather, should be considered a crime against womenswear, and punishable by at least 10,000 years in creative purgatory. And Chamberlain, who is only there so that Louis Vuitton can breach a new market—influencers and their rich fanbases, also aspiring to be influencers—is only made more out-of-place by the high-waisted bloomers and confounding leather jacket Ghesquière has stuck her in. Take note of the puffy shoulder, where the sleeve connects with the jacket’s main body. Do you see how it rises dramatically? That’s so the Louis Vuitton customer never has to worry about losing their Louis Vuitton purse, which the brand has chosen to demonstrate with the monogrammed clutch on Chamberlain’s shoulder.
Elsewhere on the step and repeat, I bore witness to button-up skirts with scrunchie waistlines, dresses even clowns wouldn’t be caught dead in, satin pants pleated in all the wrong places, and the sort of costume you’d find in a bad student film about the ‘70s. Outlandish fashion aside, none of the clothes looked comfortable, or wearable, by any stretch of the imagination. The pencil skirts look stiff and unflattering, while that bralette and pant combo is certainly only designed for the most rail-thin among us. And the shoes, a Frankenstein’s monster of mule-toed booties and your grandfather’s favorite golfing loafers, look like prison constraints for the feet. In Ghesquière’s evolving vision of womenswear, torturous clothing appears to be the only thing he’s capable of producing!
Womenswear designers, no matter how luxurious or outlandish their clothing might be, still have the job of pushing forward women’s contemporary fashion, evolving alongside the societies they exist in. Ghesquière, once regarded as a creative visionary, appears to be flailing as Louis Vuitton reaches new heights of profitability. People might be buying his purses and shoes, no matter how perplexing the decision might be, but I’d seriously contest the marketability of clothes that only seem to function as intended on a runway. This is not couture. These are not costumes. The outfits pictured above are called, and I quote, “ready to wear.” Except they’re anything but! If ill-fitting pencil skirts and track jackets are the limit of Ghesquière’s ready-to-wear capabilities, I’d suggest he change his job to “purse merchant” and hand the reigns to someone with an actual imagination!