In his latest collection, Louis Vuitton’s women’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière once again draws inspiration from the beauty that lies in unconventional, extraordinary spaces.
This time, it led him to La Jolla. The small neighbourhood in San Diego, California, isn’t far from the Mexican border and is even close to the famed Hotel del Coronado, where Some Like It Hot, featuring an iconic performance from Marilyn Monroe, was filmed.
“There lingers an aesthetic from the American golden age,” says Ghesquière. “Mixed with the extreme southern West Coast. It all makes a really crazy collage.”
At the centre of this cultural collage stands the world’s top biomedicine research institute. Designed in 1965 by Estonian–American architect Louis Kahn, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies was created not only to be a scientific tour de force, but also a place of serenity, reflection, and creativity as evidenced by elements of its architecture and design, both of which were inspired by monasteries and artistic retreats.
Ghesquière chose a long pathway that runs through the courtyard of the Institute, with sightlines that touch the Pacific Ocean, as the runway for Louis Vuitton’s 2023 Cruise show.
The show started at dusk, with the setting sun reflecting off the Salk’s concrete exterior and the shimmering water, creating a lush, golden-hour ambience.
The timing was impeccable, and the choice was intentional. Ghesquière called the sun his guest of honour, explaining that “it plays an active part in the evolution of this wardrobe.”
The entire collection was inspired by the sun—some pieces designed in celebration of it, and others for protection from it.
Throughout the show, Ghesquière played with metal tones and fabrics that thoughtfully shimmered and reflected the sun. At times, the guest of honour provided additional dimension to sharp-edged shoulder seams. Sometimes it created an optical illusion of colour, at others, it produced a prismatic effect as it danced off the material.
“I wanted the clothes to be like reflections, a point of contact between light and people,“ he says.
As for prints, Ghesquière found his inspiration at the water’s edge—jet skis, technical elements from nautical life, the sand, and the sea itself. “The contrast between technology and the earth. It makes for beautiful images,” he explains.
To channel those earthly elements, the designer artfully integrated natural materials such as linen, silk, and cotton throughout. Elsewhere in the collection, billowing trousers, reimagined bloomers, and sweeping dresses were all fastened with draping using a removable snap hook system.
The juxtaposition of innovative patterns and cuts blended with such recognizable material creates silhouettes that feel futuristic yet familiar at the same time.
“I like very structured things, but here I also wanted fluid flowing silhouettes,” says Ghesquière.
For their part, the accessories reinforced the overall theme of the collection. Metal made an appearance on bags, hats, and glasses. Footwear included boots, shoes, and what Ghesquière calls hybrid shoes, which are “part desert boot, part sneaker, and part mules.” Each pair was embellished with reflectiv bands that mimic solar panels.
Ghesquière’s innovation also extended to casting, choosing talent that may be new to the runway but certainly not to big stages. He welcomed two-time Olympic champion skier Eileen Gu, and Olympic track and field star Dalilah Muhammad to the stage, as well as models Lauren Wasser, and Lous and the Yakuza, who opened the show.
The show’s soundtrack was a mix of titles by Sparks, a group that Ghesquièr has been fond of since he heard their music in the film Annette. “Their sound and depth lend themselves completely to this location, creating a poetic counterpoint to the architecture.”
The intricacies of the evening—from the location, to the runway, and the prints and pieces themselves made it one of Louis Vuitton’s most opulent, visionary, and considered shows. The sun may have been the guest of honour, but with this collection Ghesquière proves that his star is shining quite bright, too.
Photos courtesy of Louis Vuitton.