Nicolas Ghesquière’s First Voyager for Louis Vuitton Show Was All About Chinese Youth

For Nicolas Ghesquière, the energy of Chinese youth felt palpable, so spotlighting local creativity for his first show in China since COVID-19 — and Louis Vuitton‘s first runway show under the Voyager Show format — was a no-brainer.

During a personal trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu last November, Ghesquière, artistic director of women’s collections at Vuitton since 2013, was introduced to the works of Sun Yitian, a Beijing-based artist known for her paintings of blown-up animals.

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Inspired by Sun’s work that explored mass production (“Made in China”) and artistic value, as well as her personal story of growing up in Wenzhou, a manufacturing hub, he decided to team with Sun and bring her most famous paintings to the runway.

Sun’s toy animal series, which included a pink rabbit, a yellow duck, a spotted dog, a leopard, a swan and more, ended up on more than 90 products from the collection, ranging from handbags to ready-to-wear and accessories.

Sun’s version of Zootopia was also unleashed into the streets of Shanghai.

Sun Yitian's work is seen wrapped around the façade of Shanghai K11 Art Mall.
Sun Yitian’s work is seen wrapped around the facade of Shanghai K11 Art Mall.

In the days leading up to the show, Sun’s puffed-up toy animals, in some ways a youthful rendition of Jeff Koons’ blown-up figures, covered the facade of the Shanghai K11 Art Mall, popped up in the scenic downtown, landed on landmark billboards, and virtually floated across the cityscape all at once — perhaps a move that even Koons would envy.

In a similar vein, Ghesquière tapped Chu Wong, a new-gen Chinese supermodel, to share the stage with him by creating a remix of her “Bad Kiss N Dreams” single for the show, produced in collaboration with longtime Ghesquière collaborator Woodkid Music.

Chu’s restless speaking voice and Woodkid’s techno kicks not only heightened the drama of the garments but reverberated throughout the all-white concrete structure that is home to Long Museum, the venue that Ghesquière selected for the show. Vuitton didn’t change much about the venue, only adding simple blocks of white seating and tunnel lights, letting the industrial building speak for itself.

“I loved the contrast of the incredibly futuristic architecture, the storied waters, and the old concrete silo in front of the museum,” said Ghesquière.

Looks from Louis Vuitton's first Voyager Show in Shanghai.
A look from Louis Vuitton’s first Voyager Show in Shanghai.

The collection, which started with simple pieces that prominently featured the Sun collaboration, ran through iterations of Ghesquière’s floral motifs and clashing colors. It then gradually matured and got into softer textures, including a pinafore maxidress made with precious cashmere and mink yarn.

As the collection grew, more architectural stories emerged — a series of bubble dresses, leather jackets with exaggerated shoulders, and sporty cocoon coats were all familiar codes in Ghesquière’s Vuitton playbook.

Also on Ghesquière’s mind was how the Chinese locals rethought the idea of dressing up, which meant fewer extremes and staying more “balanced.” This idea was achieved with looks that paired flowy styles with sturdy footwear, such as a floral cocktail dress worn with a pair of combat boots or a floor-length maxiskirt that unveiled trail-running sneakers.

“It’s quite subtle, but I wanted to reflect that approach of showing the love of fashion, but in their own way — casual, easy but well-thought,” observed Ghesquière.

Also inspired by the 50 shades of black that he witnessed on the streets of Chengdu, Ghesquière recreated the drama with a wide-shouldered biker vest that came with black zippers and black metal snaps, which was paired with black leggings underneath. Chu closed the show in a jet-black number as well, one with mismatched textures and silhouettes, another classic Ghesquière imprint.

Looks from Louis Vuitton's first Voyager Show in Shanghai.
Looks from Louis Vuitton’s first Voyager Show in Shanghai.

As the show wound down, front-row guests — including Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Connelly, Regina King, Jackson Wang, Liu Yifei and Zhou Dongyu — gave Ghesquière a standing ovation, consolidating his 10-year tenure at Vuitton.

Ghesquière’s playful and exuberant collection, which has already begun to hit shop floors worldwide, will also be partially see now, buy now.

A fuller range of the collection will embark on a resee tour of Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Qingdao in an effort to court wealthy customers who will continue to shell out for luxury goods despite a sector slowdown amid broader economic uncertainties.

In the first quarter, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton saw spending by Chinese customers rise 10 percent, though there was a shift to purchasing overseas.

Putting hard numbers and financial outlooks aside, Ghesquière managed to hit all the high notes with his latest and one of the more commercial collections of the year— a creative feat in itself.

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