Louis Vuitton bridges Korean pop culture with womenswear

Louis Vuitton held its first womenswear pre-fall show on Jamsugyo Bridge in Seoul. Zaneta Cheng reports back

Louis Vuitton has been known to stop traffic but for its recent pre-fall show, it literally halted all passage on Jamsugyo Bridge in Seoul when it took over the thoroughfare for 24 hours. A little-known fact about the bridge, which is suspended just a few metres over the city’s Han River, is that it was designed to be submersible. Jamsu means “diving” in Korean and gyo means “bridge”, and during heavy rains the section of the bridge on which Nicolas Ghesquière presented his pre-fall 2023 collection will actually sit below the waterline.

It’s certainly a memorable way to stage the maison’s first women’s pre-fall show in the South Korean capital, which itself was born out of Ghesquière’s friendship with Korean actress Doona Bae and inspired by The Host, a 2006 horror film by Bong Joon-ho that Bae also stars in. In the movie, the Han River is a central player and the sense of disquieting uneasiness was certainly replicated at the show, where the scenography was orchestrated by Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk. Amber lights glimmered over the bridge and echoing drumming whale sounds played against the howl of the frigid wind that whipped up skirt hems and dismantled even the most coiffed of hairdos. There were no heat lamps and no blankets. Guests walked across the concrete expanse to their block of seats and watched the sun set from the bridge as they shivered amidst the unexpected cold snap.

This wasn’t a show that indulged in faux tributes to the country’s tradition. It didn’t draw from its rituals or colour palette. Instead, in its apocalyptic, barren beauty, Ghesquière seemed to draw from the capital’s modern cultural output. This, after all, is a city that has punched above its weight, winning Best Picture with a satirical thriller-comedy that portrays the insidious nature of social inequality. Its best-performing overseas exports are television series and movies about zombies – Kingdom and Train to Busan, respectively – and a dystopic television show where the cash-strapped die in a competition comprising children’s games (otherwise known as Squid Game).

So the idea is based on what the show notes call a “tale of to and fro”, where “impeccable savoir-faire remains nonetheless open to confrontation”. If the world is one where Seoul holds the key to the future and Paris remains a bastion of the past, this was Ghesquière’s way to bridge past and future and East and West.

Hoyeon Jung – model, Louis Vuitton ambassador and Squid Game actress –opened the show in a royal blue windbreaker tucked under an A-line leather miniskirt and cinched together with a belt buckle in the shape of
a lock, clicking into place the colour and movement of the future with the tailoring and savoir-faire of Louis Vuitton’s origins.

The sport element was strong throughout this collection and pared-back compared to the frills seen on Ghesquière’s catwalks of yore. The silhouettes were bold and utilitarian. Bodysuits and jumpsuits of the almost aeronautic variety took over the first half of the collection, slowly segueing into more restrained black-and-white silhouettes and flowing skirts that speak to the quiet luxury dialogue of late.

But all was not without the shimmer and flou signature to Ghesquière’s more recent collections for Louis Vuitton. The monogram was rendered in mini across different pieces, most notably on a checkerboard trouser and on various plunging bodysuits. A series of shining metallic monogram belts were part of the closing pack of looks culminating in two loungewear sets comprising a metallic mandarin-collared shirt with matching trousers and a metallic belt.

As for accessories, Ghesquière reached into the trunkmaker’s history and played with proportions, reimagining a traditional Parisian street sign into a trunk-shaped handbag with the words “Louis Vuitton Seoul” emblazoned on. Locks were reinterpreted on belts and giant tags made into bags, drawing from all aspects of Asnières’s craft.

The collection and its myriad seemingly discordant juxtapositions were an exploration into futurism and tradition, Korean street style and traditional French codes. It wasn’t quite billed as a diplomatic assignment but through the dialogue that was held in the pieces that paraded down the bridge and the spectacle that was the water jets on the bridge that were set off to shoot into the river during the finale, this cross- cultural exchange seems to have firmly put Louis Vuitton’s stake in the Asian market.

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