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Louis Vuitton’s Imaginary Voyages

Godfrey Deeny
June 25th, 2010 @ 00:43 AM - Paris

Travel, the essential DNA of Louis Vuitton, was the key to the latest menswear collection from the house shown on Thursday, June 24, albeit treks of an ephemeral sort, since most of the journeys that inspired this show were taken in the mind.

Vuitton’s men’s designer Paul Helbers did not actually fly to these places for research, but the virtual visits – ranging from China to the Amazon – led to one of the best collections so far from Helbers.

The designer called this collection “digital bohemian,” but aside from the fact models wore no suits and ties, this was a very patrician view of bohemia.

“I wanted a sense of bohemian travel, an artist on the move,” explained Helbers, after taking his bow with his boss, Vuitton’s artistic director Marc Jacobs. Despite having his left arm in a high-tech sling – the result of an operation of his shoulder – Jacobs applauded Helbers for some 30 seconds.

For Vuitton, Helbers has always focused on sportswear, unlike, say, a rival luxury French house like Hermes, which concentrates on updating traditional clothing.

But, when it comes to sportswear chic, Helbers certainly has an eye for a plausible new way to travel with style, and in opulent materials. Garments like a sturdy, but beautifully cut buffalo hide blazer, parachute silk jackets or cool silk trousers cut like jogger pants, all looked elegant and super comfortable on a long-haul flight. Plus, a black cut shirt in the Vuitton’s classic logo pattern injected a dash of French couture quality.

And, Vuitton, whose meat and potatoes remains bags and luggage, can expect good business at the cash registers with a great new series of totes and chunky weekend bags in a faded green Japanese denim. You could see the front-row fashionistas eyeing them eagerly. Also likely to be hits were shiny tropical green Damier check backpacks and shoulder bags – just the right blend of insouciance and practicality for which Vuitton should stand.

From Asia, there were Chinese cutout patterned grain leather bags, while from the Amazon there were remarkable lizard pattern boots. However, Jacobs waved off the idea that the Chinese influence was designed to tempt consumers in that market.

“In our experience, if anything, Chinese consumers don’t want our version of their culture. They want a more Western Vuitton,” Jacobs insisted.

Of late, there have been rumors that this might be Helbers last collection for the house. Asked whether this could be true, the designer responded: “That’s certainly not what I have heard!”

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