If challenged on his unconventional buildings, Oscar Niemeyer, architect of the Mac Niterói art gallery which hovers above Rio de Janeiro like a spaceship, would quote Charles Baudelaire: “Strangeness is a necessary ingredient of beauty.” As an aesthetic philosophy, this sums up the Louis Vuitton catwalk collection staged on the snaking ramps of the gallery at sunset on Saturday.
Out of the UFO curves of the building came models wearing parachute-silk cape-backed dresses with wetsuit zippers, or silk blouses inspired by Brazilian artist Aldemir Martins’ paintings of Pelé. The famous Louis Vuitton box trunks were reincarnated as Copacabana beach ghettoblasters, complete with gold hardware and the LV monogram. In the front row, Catherine Deneuve watched imperious, while Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio captured the moment for posterity with selfies.
There is a strangeness to a fashion extravaganza on this scale being staged in a country which is in the grip of recession, with an impeached president, endemic corruption, a major health crisis looming over the Zika virus, and with the small matter of an Olympic Games to host in two months’ time. Unsurprisingly, designer Nicolas Ghesquière took ample artistic licence in the image of Brazil he riffed on for this collection, focusing on a nostalgic Ipaneman glamour and Brazil’s sporting heritage.
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