EXCLUSIVE: Louis Vuitton Selects Salk Institute for Cruise Show

Nicolas Ghesquière picked one of the most famous and arresting buildings in California for Louis Vuitton’s cruise 2023 show on May 12 — the Salk Institute in San Diego, WWD has learned.

Imposing yet poetic, the clifftop research facility features a slim reflecting pool running between two identical rows of Brutalist buildings, framing breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

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Artistic director of women’s collections at Vuitton since 2013, Ghesquière typically selects an architectural marvel as a transporting backdrop for cruise shows.

Over the years, he’s done them at the groovy Bob Hope Estate by John Lautner in Palm Springs, Calif.; Brazil’s MAC Niterói by Oscar Niemeyer; Kyoto’s Miho Museum by Ieoh Ming Pei; the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence by Josep Lluís Sert, and the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport in New York by Eero Saarinen.

“Having spent a lot of time in California, I was drawn to the idea of showing there again,” Ghesquière said, disclosing the location for the next show exclusively to WWD. “The Salk Institute has been a place of wonder for me over the years and Louis Kahn’s stunning Brutalist architecture against this extraordinary setting of the Pacific Ocean and the California sunset provides me with endless inspiration.

“It also celebrates intelligence, knowledge and the belief in the wonders of science,” he added.

An Estonia-born American architect, Kahn completed the Salk research campus in 1965. It is home to an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to biomedical research, named after its founder, the virologist Dr. Jonas Salk. in 1955, Salk developed one of the first polio vaccines.

The Vuitton cruise unveiling marks the first time a fashion show has been held at the Salk Institute — but not its first brush with the French luxury brand.

Vuitton chose the site for one of its travel campaigns in 2019, and also included it in the 10th issue of in-house magazine LV Book, which was dubbed “The California Issue.” According to the brand, “the institute continues to be a lasting reference and source of inspiration for the maison.”

It also further extends its long love affair with the U.S. Besides the cruise show in Palm Springs in 2015, Vuitton reprised its men’s spring 2022 show in Miami last November, also a tribute to its artistic director of men’s collections, Virgil Abloh, who died at age 41.

Louis Vuitton has a long and valued relationship with the U.S.A., dating back to the Chicago World Fair of 1893,” said Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Michael Burke. “Since then, our presence has expanded across the country, and notably California.”

The 2023 cruise show will unfurl in the central courtyard of the Salk Institute. Vuitton calls it “the focal point of a complex that spans more than 411,000 square feet, seamlessly integrating 29 separate science facilities with nature, sky and sea.”

Like many brands adapting to restrictions amid waves of COVID-19, Vuitton has had to occasionally substitute digital solutions for live runway spectacles in recent years. Its cruise 2021 collection was shot at Ghesquière’s studio at LV headquarters in Paris, while the cruise 2022 show was livestreamed from a monumental, bridge-like installation in Paris by the late Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan, known as Axe Majeur.

Cruise represents a key delivery for luxury brands as the collections have a long selling window straddling several seasons, and often dedicated campaigns and extra distribution via pop-up stores.

California is a popular place for European luxury brands to unveil collections. As reported, Kim Jones plans to unveil his spring 2023 men’s collection for Dior in Los Angeles on May 19. Gucci sent its spring 2022 collection down Hollywood Boulevard last November.

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