Gentleman Climbers, Lounge Lizards, and Strippers at Louis Vuitton and Dries

Published January 18, 2013

 

Extraordinary travel is Louis Vuitton’s stomping ground, and so what better place to explore menswear’s current mountaineering obsession than the world’s most exclusive peaks: the Himalayan heights and forests of the kingdom of Bhutan. One of the most exotic and undisturbed pieces of nature, official permission is required for a visit.

LVs Men’s Studio Director Kim Jones made the trip and brought back so many ideas that it’s hard to imagine how he managed to pack them all into one season. To put it succinctly, Vuitton’s gentleman climber is the fashionable sort who likes to wear an anorak, or a fat down jacket, over a fine tailored suit. Jones, powered by the brand’s extensive research and development resources, blends technique and artistic tour de force on every piece to create so much more than a look.

Recalling the snow leopards in Bhutan’s Wangchuck Centennial Park, LV’s needle-punch jacquard intertwines natural-tone mink and cashmere. And so what appears to be stylized animal spots on a beige double-breasted coat is actually a pattern created in fur peaking out from underneath cashmere. Traditional Bhutan stripes and checks, woven there in cashmere, for items like a fur-hooded trekking poncho, give mountain fantasy authentic roots. Ditto the sharp jackets and coats, made from Bhutan felt with buttons carved from Everest stones. Fat parkas in shaved fur have all the swagger an LV aficionado could want, but for truly extraordinary men seeking the real wild, there’s Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Garden in Hell. Riffing on those snow leopards and Bhutan mythology, the Chapmans and Jones recalled Diana Vreeland’s famous description of her red lacquer apartment. The result shows in brilliant jacquard satin tuxedos in the ’50s tradition, covered with phantasmagorical patterns and worn with shaved mink slippers. Compared to that, LV’s crocodile hiking boots seem almost tame.

Dries Van Noten travelled no further than bedroom to fireside, but the results were pretty spectacular. Dressing-gown paisley was supersized and patchworked on jackets, bathrobe coats, and pajama bottoms, translated into jacquard poncho sweaters with fringe and in black embroidery on dark-blue denim jackets. The pattern frenzy is tempered with boyish oversized sweatshirts, fuzzy V-neck tunic sweaters, and giant jackets. And as if he was dreaming of a rock star lounging at the Ritz post-performance, Van Noten mixed the big, sleepy pieces with slinky diamond-studded silk shirts and skinny black leather pants held together with flat metal studs.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s next winter wardrobe idea is equally intimate: long underwear. Presented in a series of neon-lit plexi boxes like a stylized strip club, his boy toys started off in pinstripe boiler suits and jackets with detachable skirts, but quickly got down to essentials. What looked like a jacket under a sweater turns out to be a skirt, and half-pants and Perfecto jackets strap over underlayers for those who want to be in and out of their clothes simultaneously. All this tricky window dressing was a backdrop for skinny knits, like second skins covered with complex geometrics in banker’s grey.