The Louis Vuitton traveller this season takes a digital look, from above, at the wonders of the plains of South America.
“Our collections have always been about travel,” says Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton, “but the idea this time was technical travel, digital travel, the implications of the fact that we can now see the world through a screen. We looked at NASA maps of the world from space, and at aerial photographs of Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Atacama Desert, and the Nazca Lines in Peru. Then, we went into those areas and found the finest local materials. The idea this season is combine these refined fabrications with the notion of digital, new age travel, of never being in one place. As is the tradition of Louis Vuitton, there’s a focus on craftsmanship, but technology was important; I didn’t want to make something rustic or nostalgic. It had to feel technical and modern.”
While this collection plays on the digital, nothing has been copied and pasted. Instead, Jones and his team have used their research as a basis to develop new ideas, using their unique combination of cutting-edge innovation and traditional craftsmanship. Jones has collected digital images, which he uses as a counterpoint to his collection, providing a technical contrast with his luxurious products that have been painstakingly made by experts and by hand. Advanced performance details are combined with the most sophisticated natural fabrics. Traditional materials are transformed into new colours and textures, with the introduction of Damier Cobalt, and artisanal re-working of house leathers. Animal geoglyph motifs from the Nazca Lines, are woven into knitwear using extreme-vicuña, a rare wool made from only the finest hairs of the vicuña camelid. Even the surface of the catwalk resembling an aerial photograph of the Atacama desertscape, has been painstakingly painted by hand. That same aerial photography has inspired an earthy colour palette transposed throughout the collection – daywear and tailoring, outdoor wear, evening and loungewear – featuring flashes of cashmere, vicuña, chinchilla, alpacca, python, silk, and new incarnations of the house’s trademark leathers.
This season, tailoring has been approached completely anew. Suiting has been reconfigured to be lighter and slimmer, and a new combination of wool and mohair – crease-resistant, optimal for travelling – has been introduced. Shoulders have been rebuilt around hand stitching and light canvas, and throughout the collection lapels are peaked in a nod to the suits worn by Hiram Bingham III, the adventurer and treasure hunter believed to have discovered Machu Picchu. Coats are made from the double-faced cashmere of the blankets that Jones introduced to Vuitton in his first season, and some have subtle hints of Peruvian detailing, such as needle-punched horizontal stripes. Silhouettes are graphic and clean, falling from a strong, round shoulder, appearing almost two dimensional, as if viewed on a screen.
A further graphic element comes in the form of Kim Jones’ new inky-blue version of the house’s classic Damier motif; Damier Cobalt. “I always think of midnight blue as being very Parisian,” Jones says. “I wanted to redevelop the Damier in some way, and for me this was the most logical. It fits with my passion for colour, but it’s also discrete enough to be appropriate for business.” The new Damier Cobalt appears on a special version of the classic Keepall bag, as well as on totes, messengers and folios. All of the bags have been modernised with tonal versions of the masculine Vuitton trunk handle, combining metal and leatherwork. Many of the bags feature Jones’ signature nylon webbing straps; a trolley bag, a duffle with optional backpack straps, as well as backpack-hybrid Keepall, and a new east-west tote with compartments perfectly designed for convenience at airport security. Many of the bags can be folded down this season, showcasing the new leathers of the season: a nubuck featuring a grain inspired by Epi, a silver mirrored calf debossed with the Damier check, and rubberized leather trimming the technical damier bags. An ultra-soft crocodile is used to make folded volumes, a new tablet pochette, and a metal trimmed version of the classic Atoll travel wallet. What appear to be solid miniature folios are actually folding travel games, cast in metal and veneered in Macassar ebony. The game motif also shows up in the shape of geometric cube formations of crystal and metal that hang from pendants and bags, reintroductions of Pateki, a puzzle invented by Gaston-Louis Vuitton in the 1920s.
The combination of technical, practical, modern detail with traditional fine leather is echoed in the shoes, which this season have been edited down to just three styles: a Derby city shoe available in glazed calfskin, velvety grained-nubuck or crocodile; a city ankle boot-hybrid in glazed calf with a padded nappa ankle, rubber inserts on the toe and microfibre sole inserts for lightness.
The spirit of luxury adventure carries into the collection’s outdoor wear and knitwear. Opulent homage is paid to quintessential outdoor: a reversible zip-up sweater is constructed from panels of shearling, chinchilla-lined silk is detailed with heat-sealed zippers and seams, a wind breaker is made in python skin and finished with a calf-leather hood, and hand-knitted strips of cashmere are used as fur. A robe is made from double-faced vicuña, classic pants are finished with technical cuffs and reversible coats and blousons are made from cashmere and silk. A development of the Peruvian stripe motif appears on scarves and blankets, while the Damier check is used to create a woven tonal detail and appliquéd onto knitwear as a pattern formed by Aztec-style snakes made of sliced stone. Wool from the huarizo, an alpaca-llama crossbreed, is used to create heavy looking pieces that are light to wear.
As the collection moves into evening, it again calls on a big, bold silhouette, in the form of a double-faced-cashmere double-breasted coat, worn over a double-breasted evening suit. A lounge feel is introduced by a blouson in extreme-vicuña, with knitted rib details, which, along with the other vicuña and crocodile pieces from this collection will be exclusively available as part of Louis Vuitton men's Made-to-Order service. Evening suits in dégradé silk are worn over micro-checked and striped shirts, while lounge pants, T-shirts and sweatshirts are detailed with an artisan crochet stitch: even these most relaxed pieces are finished to impeccable standards of craftsmanship. Scarves are made from silk twill with subtle chevrons and stripes, and a take on a South American herringbone.
Every look in the collection comes with sunglasses in a different colourway. All of them have adjustable arms and are designed to be truly practical for the modern explorer. The jewellery in the collection belies Jones’ interest in geology. It's all made of gems and stones: smoky quartz, rough amethyst, ionite, and jasper, the veins of which echo the view of the earth from above. They’ve been cut into solid rings which are then lined with metal and worn on scarves round the neck, while larger shards have been fused together like rock formations for pendants and key-chains. Bracelets are made of chain links cut using the same technique as that employed for the rings: natural crystals used in a way that, like the rest of the collection, is strikingly elegant but uniquely masculine.