Nicolas Ghesquière can trace his interest in the confluence between architecture and fashion back to his early twenties when he started his career at Balenciaga. On a work trip to Japan, he visited a factory in Osaka in a building designed by Tadao Ando—the self-taught Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect behind the likes of Teatro Armani in Milan and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St Louis, Missouri, US. “Something happened in that moment,” Ghesquière recalls on seeing clothes being made in this refined context. “It created a desire to one day express myself in an environment such as this.”
There are several reasons Ghesquière has a particular fascination with architecture. One being the way “all genius architects” connect with people through their work by creating spaces that are “human, livable and functional”. The Louis Vuitton creative director’s ultimate goal in fashion is, he says, “to connect with people and at the same time create a fantasy”.
The most recent deliverance of fantasy came on 15 June when Ghesquière unveiled his Louis Vuitton Cruise 2022 collection through a film. Shot on location outside Paris, at Axe Majeur, in the village of Cergy, models dressed in the collection walk through the sprawling 3km-long monument with its 12 features including the towering Le Douze Colonnes, up the tidal wave of steps at the Jardins des Droits de l’Homme and across the La Passerelle dissecting the river Oise with its red archways.
Crediting social media in part, Ghesquière has noticed an uptick in the curiosity people have developed for architecture when they visit a city. While our ability to travel remains limited, to sate our wanderlust, he took us on a tour of some of his favourite architectural wonders of the world and cruise collections past.
1. Bob Hope house, Palm Springs, California, US
“Every time I went to Palm Springs, I used to look up at a house built into a mountainside overlooking the Californian desert. I remember trying to access it once, but couldn’t as it was a private residence designed [by architect John Lautner] for [the entertainers] Bob and Dolores Hope. When we decided to show the Cruise 2016 collection in California, the Bob Hope house was between owners. The collection was inspired by [film director] Robert Altman’s 3 Women—a very strange, contemplative movie from 1977 with an almost feminist cult spirit—and the 1950s interior decoration contrasting with Lautner’s radical vision spoke to the community of women I was designing for.
“This show established my vision for associating cruise collections with architectural discovery for years to come. Louis Vuitton is about different ways of travelling after all; of finding new places.”
2. Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“The [Brazilian architect] Oscar Niemeyer–designed Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, where we presented Cruise 2017, looks so futuristic, and for a while now my collections have [revolved around] the theme of time. At Louis Vuitton, we integrate what are considered historical, almost costume-like references into a contemporary wardrobe. I love this hybridisation; it sometimes seems awkward or strange, and that’s what drew me to the Niterói building—I admire Niemeyer’s bravery. Fashion is about proposing something that might not seem beautiful at first, but we adapt and through our curiosity it becomes beautiful.”
3. Miho Museum, Kōka, Shiga, Japan
“I don’t have a favourite building, but the Miho Museum [designed by Chinese-American architect IM Pei—renowned for his glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris where the Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear shows are usually staged] comes close. It’s a real sanctuary where the spiritual community Shinji Shumeikai, founded by Mihoko Koyama, is based. Part of it is underground and it has views over a beautiful green valley to another town. I first went to the Miho around 15 years ago, long before cruise collections were part of my life, and I felt so at peace and inspired amid all this refinement. ‘One day,’ I told myself, ‘I will do a show here.’ And with the 2018 collection, that dream came true.”
4. Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence, France
“I don’t think there was a single trip I took with my family to the south of France as a child where we didn’t visit the Fondation Maeght. It represents such a beautiful vision of that part of France and the artists that came together there in the 1960s [including Georges Braque, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti]. Part of the magic of designing for Louis Vuitton is that we establish a relationship with the places where we show—at the time of the Cruise 2019 collection, the Fondation was looking to landscape its garden, which we contributed to.”
5. TWA Flight Center, John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, US
“The last cruise show we did with guests was at the TWA terminal, designed by [Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen]. When I went to visit the building about four months before the Cruise 2020 show, it was in the middle of a renovation—birds were flying around and it was noisy. So, we installed trees inside the terminal to give it a deserted feel where nature has taken over, like the laboratory in Jurassic Park . One fun anecdote from that show: visiting a private room reserved for the Pope when he goes to New York.”
6. Axe Majeur, Cergy, France
“Around seven years ago, I found a picture of Axe Majeur and rediscovered it while I was designing the Cruise 2022 collection. I visited it for the first time a little over a month ago and it didn’t seem real; I couldn’t believe it was just outside of Paris. I completely fell in love with the space, the nature, the bridge and the columns. The most important thing is to find a space that shows the models and fashion in proportion. It can be dramatic, but it shouldn’t feel too big. The 2022 show really felt like a parade or celebration; the bridge acted as a [sci-fi TV show and movie] Stargate-like portal to a more hopeful and happier future, reflecting the feelings I had while designing the collection.”