On a small island on an Italian lake, not far from Milan, Louis Vuitton’s 2024 Cruise collection brought fantasy to life. Isola Bella, one of the Borromean Islands, was both the launch point of Nicolas Ghesquiére’s latest collection and its inspiration. Naturally, Isola Bella has a regal mysticism with complex architecture and gardens filling out the 400 by 300-metre spot of land.
The island is owned by the historic House of Borromeo, a family whose status and influence on Italy is unrivalled. The Borromeos began acquiring the group of small islands in the 17th century. Isola Bella—once a barren rock—was lovingly transformed by Count Carlo Borromeo III into a romantic garden and palace as a tribute to his wife. Since then, it has been maintained by the family for centuries.
Its location on the idyllic lake combined with the regal structures found on the island sparked Ghesquiére’s imagination for the Cruise collection. When asked why he was drawn to Isola Bella as a place to explore mythology and fantasy, he responded, “The mystery of lakes that one imagines might be populated by fantastical creatures. A legendary creature, a kind of freshwater mermaid that lives in rivers, ponds, and lakes. A very beautiful, mythical woman.”
These mythical women were brought to life at the 2024 Cruise show, as models adorned with modernized Venetian masks and ethereal headdresses—created by an atelier in Rome known for designing costumes for opera and cinema—stepped out into the Isola Bella palace gardens.
Dressed in neoprene fabric shaped into Elizabethan jackets and, modern blazers, webbed miniskirts, and leather pieces with scale-like patterns, the models appeared to emerge from the water ready for an opulent garden soiree. Shirts delicately embroidered with eye-catching sequins, and black leather gilded with jewels appeared as the collection moved into futuristic evening wear. Bias-cut gowns affixed with structured organza created gravity-defying silhouettes—almost as though the models had remained underwater, floating along the stone walkways.
“There’s a metamorphosis from the nautical to the baroque,” said Ghesquiére, referencing the island’s baroque architecture as an influence. The mixture of these worlds—modern and traditional, aquatic and terrestrial—is an intriguing concept for him.
“I explored an exercise I like very much, which I have been practicing at Louis Vuitton for a long time: the juxtaposition between the familiar and the remarkable.”
This mixture of futuristic flair and traditionalism is a cornerstone of Ghesquiére’s 10-year term with the Maison, showcasing the designer’s ability to create fantasy that translates into the everyday. Ghesquiére says that the collection represents transformation, and much like a creature leaving behind its aquatic home to venture onto new land, this vision takes viewers in new and exciting directions.
“Isola Bella is a story unto itself. It beckons more dreamlike reflections. I see this collection as a tale devoid of nostalgia,” said Ghesquiére.