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Louis Vuitton: Street Butterflies, Chic Boys

Godfrey Deeny
June 25th, 2009 @ 11:34 AM - Paris

Call it an example of creative noblesse oblige, where the patrician proves he’s a gentleman by his very concern and sympathy for those who got a tougher break. This was the case with Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2010 menswear collection, inspired by New York bike messengers, shown in Paris on Wednesday, June 24.

Abused by cab drivers, riding in the draining heat-waves of summer or mid-winter snow drifts and hustling all day long, messengers are paid on a per job basis, and forget about any pension. There can be few more exhausting trades than being a Manhattan bike courier. So basing a fashion collection on the modern urban pony express is something of a stretch for Louis Vuitton, the world’s most profitable prestige products brand.

Did it work? Largely, yes, since the collection, whose program notes call the riders “Gentleman Butterflies” – had plenty of ideas – like hipster, abstract expressionist splash painted nylon blazers, which, in a zany use of technology turned out to be blown up images of butterfly wings. Eat your heart out, Jackson Pollock.

Vuitton’s menswear designer Paul Helbers riffed on lots of cycle references, whether contrasting orange or lemon shoe heels that recalled cyclists shoes, or hazard yellow luminous strips used as details on blousons.

Staged in Centre 104, the elegant new north Paris art foundation and former morgue of the city of Paris that’s become a hot catwalk destination, the show featured a black tar runway that staff brushed carefully before the first sounds of Lou Reed crooning “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” kicked off the show.

Ironically, the best looks had only a tenuous connection with delivery boys, like a brilliantly cut leather trench or a sleek calfskin biker jacket, done double face, a technique more common in women’s haute couture.

Helbers, with Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs standing and applauding beside him, took his bow to throaty cheers and much clapping, few more enthusiastic than Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, who sat front row.

“Don’t you like my look,” said singer Fergie, as she pirouetted before paparazzi, wearing an all-black outfit from Vuitton’s Pigalle prostitute collection, and complementing it well with her newly dyed black tresses. And, adding to the frock-n-roll moment, Fergie’s cohorts wore high tops designed by rapper Kanye West for Vuitton.

Still, albeit inventive and - even if this sounds silly to say about clothes - thought-provoking, the collection felt like a stretch for a luxury brand and, ultimately, felt like it should be called Louis Vuitton Sport.

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