One of the greatest tales of transformation is the story of a mermaid going from sea to land, turning into a human and experiencing what goes on above the water’s surface. The Little Mermaid—and the live-action remake of the 1989 Disney classic hitting theaters tomorrow—was perhaps top of mind for Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, along with Venetian Baroque balls, sea nymphs, and even Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, as he set sail yet again for the brand’s cruise 2024 show.
The opulent setting this time around was Isola Bella, a tiny, majestic island situated in the middle of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, and has been in the Borromeo family for centuries, replete with 10 gardens and a massive palace. Against the backdrop of the verdant blue water, the show took over the entire island to tell the tale of creatures of land, sea, and, it goes without saying, beauty.
Those familiar with Ghesquière know that the designer has been an avid user of neoprene and scuba materials for over two decades, including his iconic work for Balenciaga and several instances during his tenure at Louis Vuitton. This season took it to the next level, with trompe l’œil water droplets and scales printed on scuba tops, jackets, and one-piece scuba swimsuits juxtaposed with linen opera coats.
The wonders of the sea continued to strike a balance against earthly pleasures with hypnotic fish scale skirts paired with cropped jackets and massive encrusted feather and metal headpieces. Gorgeous beaded dresses bore a striking resemblance to stained glass windows, draped just so over the body. Elsewhere, colorblocked minidresses, one of Ghesquière’s staples, were layered, ruched, and bunched to perfection, never once losing their technical rigor or excitement. Paired with masquerade masks in metallic finishes, they looked like lost relics from a Venetian ball, brought into the future.
As the show progressed, tulle started frothing like waves from sleeves and hips, and the beading became more intricate, reflecting the raindrops that fell on the island during the show like lost pearls turning on the sea floor. The finale parade, in a rainbow of pastel hues, completed the transformation from sea to earth, with mermaid dresses in delicate silks and brocades ribbon-lined on the bias, almost giving the effect of Ariel herself emerging from the sea for the first time. For just a moment, sea and earth, hard and soft, human and animal all converged and blended for a presentation that honored the rich Baroque history of the island while conveying hard-won romance that is sure to delight any die-hard fans of Louis Vuitton—or The Little Mermaid.
Kevin LeBlanc is the Fashion Associate at ELLE Magazine. He covers fashion news, trends, and anything to do with Robyn Rihanna Fenty.