Minecraft fans will have recognised the disembodied voice that introduced Nicolas Ghesquière’s SS16 collection, a journey to the “frontiers of the digital era”.
Mad Max meets Space Invaders, the models here had bound hands, like boxers’, in leather, and punky laced Richelieu heels with contrast overstitching. Hand-painted leathers were paired with overdyed silks. Fabrics had been made dazzling by the atelier: “gel induction” decorated a silk pastel playsuit like bleeps on a video game; poplin cotton skirts had been bubbled into life.
Ghesquière’s “heroic fantasy” was inspired by film director Wong Kar-wai’s 2046, the Japanese manga artist Evangelion, and the style of the actress Doona Bae. The lines between masculine and feminine were finely tempered here: mannish leather waistcoats were cut away at the back and elasticated across the shoulders — a front-to-back “gender fluidity” that still arrived at a very feminine silhouette. (I’ve been wondering about waistcoats for a while now. Here they were worn with plain black suit trousers or with blousey chiffon shirts with a high Edwardian collar and a swashbuckling sensibility. Guarantee you’ll see them on every catwalk next season.)
On the day when Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia was announced as the new creative director at Balenciaga, a position Ghesquière had held from 1997 until 2012, it was impossible not to draw comparisons between the incomer and his predecessor. Gvasalia creates wearable leisure and cult dresses, and the appointment is truly exciting. But he’s no technical wizard. Ghesquière is a master innovator, a connoisseur of technique and silhouette, and over his time at Louis Vuitton these talents have grown tenfold. His fabrications and materials, all accomplished alongside the Louis Vuitton atelier with little heed to budget, were a marvel. Case in point: the silverised chiffon dresses hand-painted to create an “oily” holographic sheen. No wonder he kept telling us, “I love this house.” This house helps him do what he wants to do.
But Ghesquière’s Vuitton cannot occupy only the extremes of design. Speaking backstage he referred often to honouring the Vuitton “patrimony”, pointing to pieces that addressed a less dramatic modernity: a clean-cut trench in a buttery crêpe; the patchwork silks. There were simple, sequinned zip-backed evening gowns, too, perfectly throw-on-able and effortless to boot. And a new Steamer bag was entirely office-appropriate.
The show closed with another voiceover, this time that of Jeff Bridges from Tron: Legacy. Ghesquière had considered it a “personal pleasure” to play “the sexiest voice in the world” to underscore his finale. Couldn’t agree more. In Paris, some shows really do have it all.
For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com