Vuitton's blue fashion train pulls into Paris

PARIS, Gersende Rambourg - With a whistle and a cloud of steam, a blue train chugged Orient Express-style into the courtyard of the Louvre, turned into the setting for Louis Vuitton's spectacular show at the close of Paris Fashion Week Wednesday.
With film stars and fashion elite seated in a make-believe station, complete with a LV-monogrammed clock, a gate slid back to the sound of echoing footsteps as the train steamed in with the models silhouetted in the windows.

Vuitton's blue fashion train pulls into Paris
One by one the girls stepped down onto the platform-cum-runway in dizzying heels and 1900-style high hats, looking all the taller for being followed by white-gloved porters -- deliberately cast short -- carrying a bag in each hand.
New York designer Marc Jacobs pulled out the stops for Vuitton's latest autumn-winter collection on the last of nine days of Paris' ready-to-wear shows.
The look was all about the romance of a journey, but without the nostalgia, explained the tattooed 48-year-old, dressed for the occasion in long black dress and laced boots, jet black hair and green eyes, looking exhausted but happy.
"We just imagined this romantic notion. It's the idea of the trip," he said of the train motif.
"They made it from scratch," he marvelled. "The design started four, five months ago, right after the merry-go-round," explained the designer, who for last season's show had a giant candy-coloured carousel built in the same spot.
What will become of the extravagant display once the fashion crowd has gone home? "I suggest a pop-up store," quipped the designer. "It would be a shame to waste it."
Cheers rang out at the end of the show: "It was cinema, it was beautiful," swooned Sarah Jessica Parker, the fashionista star of "Sex and the City". "The whole thing is a massive triumph."
"He's a genius," was the verdict from US film producer Harvey Weinstein.
"It was a great show, a true spectacle," added Catherine Deneuve, the grande dame of French cinema who said she loved the ostrich skin coats.
Jacobs's set design was canny from a business point of view too, with the girls free to twirl gracefully around the train, while porters lugged around the brand's bestselling baggage, showing off a staple of the Louis Vuitton brand.
Which recalls an anecdote beloved in fashion circles: when Jacobs showed his very first collection for Vuitton, 15 years ago, the young New Yorker had -- quite simply -- forgotten the bags.
This time the collection played heavily on contrasts between glitter and mat fabrics, with models stepping out in long skirts over cropped pants, and dresses with demure necklines and wide straps cupping the shoulder.
The designer -- always down-to-earth when talking about his own work -- said he "wanted to take ugly fabrics, blanket wools in questionable colour and pattern, and to stick on stones and plastic foil."
Jacobs explained he likes to "play with humble craft". On the first models, for instance, he said that "it's the dumbest thing in the world -- use a jewel button to make a camel coat exciting."
"I'm not trying to be clever or to pontificate," he said.

Thursday, March 8th 2012
Gersende Rambourg

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