Louis Vuitton’s Cruise Collection Is An Ode To Southern California

Informed by La Jolla’s architectural masterwork and inspired by the microclimates of its surrounding coast, Nicolas Ghesquière’s draws on surf culture and desert nomadism in equal measure



The guest of honor is the sun,” says Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière of his Cruise 2023 collection presented at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies at the start of summer. On this balmy early evening in La Jolla, the dramatic hillside nonprofit—a working biomedical research hub founded by the late virologist Dr. Jonas Salk in 1965—serves as a sunlight-soaked concrete canvas for a women’s collection created to celebrate and shelter from the sun’s rays.


Accessories in Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton Cruise 2023 collection include reflective metallics splashed across bracelets, boots and bags.


Ghesquière says the space, designed by architect Louis Kahn as a place of serenity and reflection, allows his complex silhouettes to appear as “reflections, a point of contact between light and people.” The Brutalist walls, strong and durable, frame a minimalist plaza designed in travertine by Mexican architect Luis Barragán that, to Ghesquière, seems to encapsulate the burning orb itself. “It’s as if the sun has found its frame; it plays with the building’s perspective, and its rays culminate in the linear fountainhead, the vanishing point where the water seems to turn to liquid gold,” he adds.

In attendance was some of Hollywood’s finest talent: former C cover stars Ana de Armas and Léa Seydoux joined Miranda Kerr, Maude Apatow and Ava DuVernay on the front row to witness Ghesquière’s unveiling. The collection is constructed around fabrics and embellishments that have a reflective quality. From the initial goddess-inspired looks to the structured jackets and square shoulders that rounded out the presentation, many of the pieces are made with natural fabrics including cotton, silk, wool and linen, enhanced to look like poured metal. “It’s a total illusion,” Ghesquière says, noting that the lustrous effects come from mixing raw materials with shiny elements, from frayed tweeds to sequins, leathers and denim. Metallic embroidery is intended to oxidize and change color over time, much like the steel on-site as it interacts with the seaside atmosphere.


“It makes for beautiful images, the contrast between technology and the earth”

Nicolas Ghesquière


Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière with Ana de Armas.


Front-row guests included Chloë Grace Moretz, Léa Seydoux and DELPHINE ARNAULT.


The Salk’s searing architecture lays bare the raw qualities of California’s landscape, from coastal cliffs to deserts, and Ghesquière points out that “clothes are intrinsically tied to variations in heat,” hinting at the region’s famed microclimates and offering various sartorial solutions to navigate them. Inspired in part by surf culture and desert nomadism, the futuristic collection includes voluminous draped jacquard dresses, designs secured with snap hooks that can be jettisoned as the mercury rises, and billowing trousers, bolero jackets, boxy short skirts and abbreviated tops. Even the shoes are hybrids. The 51-year-old creative director, who previously honed his vision of the future helming Balenciaga, calls them “part desert boot, part sneaker and part mule.” Also of note is a bag designed with traditional trunk components—a nod to Vuitton’s roots—and monogram embossing that appears like the iconic print across sand.

Ghesquière regularly seeks out architectural gems for his cruise shows; recent sites include John Lautner’s Bob Hope House in Palm Springs and I.M. Pei’s Miho Museum outside Kyoto. He also owns a 1961 Lautner house perched high above Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. In La Jolla, he seems especially attuned to the very aspect of the Salk’s coastal location that so preoccupied its famed architect. Kahn, infatuated with the play of light across the site, developed a series of light wells along each building designed to bring daylight into the underground laboratories as well as the monastic structures constructed above.


Shimmering metallic details were a key theme of the Cruise ’23 collection.


Indeed, the location itself is so entwined with the collection, it includes some prints inspired by Salk and photographed using a thermographic camera, plus designs Ghesquière compiled—from “Jet Skis, the sea, technical elements from the nautical life that blend with the sand, the rugged cliffs”—and splashed across fabrics. “It makes for beautiful images, the contrast between technology and the earth,” he adds. The juxtaposition of creativity and innovation in the area and throughout the region is also foremost in the designer’s mind: Architect William Pereira’s concrete Geisel Library, appearing like a spaceship perched above a canyon on the nearby University of California San Diego campus, looms large for Ghesquière, as does the wooden Victorian beachfront Hotel del Coronado.

“It all makes a really crazy collage,” he says. But the Salk is particularly resonant, given its visionary founder’s pioneering scientific work, not to mention the fact that we are still in a global pandemic. “This place holds enormous meaning for the future of humankind,” he adds.




Feature image: Models clad in nomadic Louis Vuitton looks designed by Nicolas Ghesquière take a final pass just after sunset at La Jolla’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies.


This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of C Magazine.

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