Inside Louis Vuitton’s ‘Monster’ Flower

During fashion week, we will be spotlighting the details we saw on the runways that surprised or delighted us. Bring on the sculptural shoes, giant inflatable models and antique fork jewelry.

PARIS — It was a monster, enormous and ominous. It was a flower, striking and alluring. It was both, and that was the point.

“We talked about the idea of a weird monster show,” traveling from town to town as part of a circus, the artist Philippe Parreno said while discussing the origins of the giant structure at the heart of the set for Louis Vuitton’s spring 2023 show. “You want to be deceived, in a way. You are attracted by it and you are seduced by it. And yet you know that it’s fake.”

The flower-shaped installation was made up of dozens of blood-red panels, which rose from a courtyard of the Louvre: 28 meters high (more than 90 feet) at its highest point and made from about 3,900 square meters of fabric.

Mr. Parreno created the set, assisted by the Hollywood production designer James Chinlund, in collaboration with Nicolas Ghesquière, creative director of women’s wear at Vuitton — whose main directive to the artist was “beautiful but dangerous.”

What they made was indeed reminiscent of a carnival or theme park: The circular platform surrounding the monster — where the audience was seated — looked like a carousel, super-illuminated by bright light bulbs and rotating chandeliers. The thick red curtains that initially concealed the monster flower were like those at magic shows. And when the curtains were pulled back, a few swinging fun house-style mirrors faced the audience on pedestals, in front of the monster. (The idea was that the flower, sentient and scary, controlled the mirrors.)

But the team also thought about classic horror cinema, like “King Kong” movies.

“When they captured King Kong and took him on tour, they put him onstage and he was chained up,” Mr. Chinlund said. “We thought about taking this flower and scaling it up to the point that it was sort of terrifying — with all these towers around it, and the cables kind of restraining it.”

Mr. Ghesquière said he had never worked like this before: planning a set while designing a collection at the same time. The fun-house-mirror effect was the clearest link between the two, with certain elements of Mr. Ghesquière’s designs (like zippers, buckles, clutch bags) that were revealed at the show on Tuesday, blown up to supersize proportions, like “a game of scale,” he said.

Planning began in June, with on-site construction starting in late August — a staggering timeline considering that all of this was for a 14-minute show held in early October. After the show, deconstruction was to begin almost immediately — kind of like a traveling circus, Mr. Chinlund said, “gone in the night.” (Louis Vuitton later noted that about 93 percent of materials used in its events, including fashion shows, were either reused or recycled.)

Yet there was something about the impermanence of a sideshow that Mr. Ghesquière appreciated.

“I’ve always liked the nomadic life,” he said. Fashion week is, after all, like a “caravan,” with the same people traveling to the same four cities for the same shows every year, twice a year. For the last few seasons, Louis Vuitton has been the final major show of the circuit.

“Sometimes people don’t realize the fashion show is such a live event. You have one chance and you have to get it right,” Mr. Ghesquière said. “But this is the definition of fashion. It’s this moment and not another moment.”

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