This morning, “La Moda nei Discorsi Dei Designer” landed in my mailbox. Written by Alessandra Vaccari, a fashion professor at the University of Venice, this interesting new book scrutinizes designers’ statements, from Charles Frederick Worth to Alexander McQueen to Karl Lagerfeld. Well, with hindsight, this was a harbinger of things to come, as the Louis Vuitton press release epitomized a popular ingredient in designer discourses: camp-tinged escapism.
“This season involved travelling to the Himalayas for research and it was the Kingdom of Bhutan that still had that mystery surrounding it… Backpacking has not ruined the Bhutan, and it feels exotic, almost of another time… It is the only place in the world where snow leopards and tigers cross paths and that is one of the reasons why the snow leopard became a chief motif in the collection,” said Kim Jones, men’s designer of Louis Vuitton.
Then, speaking about the collection’s guest stars, celebrated British artists Dinos and Jake Chapman, he added, “I sat down with Jake Chapman and we talked through the idea of a Garden in Hell. This was a phrase Diana Vreeland famously used to describe her apartment. It was something we both responded to, that and all of the unusual animals to be found in the Himalayas.”
Snowy Asian heights, a subversive fraternal art duo (they of the infamous 1990’s Sensation exhibit), and the godmother of all divas—how could we resist? On the runway, however, it boiled down to commercial, straightforward gray coats (some with double lapels) and suits, worn with cold-repellent parkas and bomber jackets with a hiking accent.
Sure, the pieces spelled luxury. A quilted jacket was cut in reindeer leather, a bomber had fur lining and a fox fur collar, and mountaineering glasses were adorned with peccary leather. But they didn’t elicit particular emotions. Besides, the Chapmans’ contribution came in gestures so small you’d need a showroom visit to appreciate them: leopard or bear patterns on tiny lapel pins, bow ties or neckties. Only the Garden in Hell patterns on lavish silk tuxedos ended the show on an over-the-top rich note.
Kim Jones is actually more convincing when he lets his inner flamboyance rip, like he did in the neon-bright scuba-inspired gear for his spring 2013 collection. Here, winning pieces included a suitcase worn as a backpack, an intarsia sweater with a friendly-looking leopard pattern, oxford boots in colorful crocodile, and squishy beanies pierced with Chapman pins.
Jones is obviously a Diana Vreeland fan, so he shouldn’t be afraid to embrace her famous quote: “Exaggeration is my only reality.”