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Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021

A Whirlwind Recap of Louis Vuitton’s Glittering Events in Monte Carlo and Paris

A Whirlwind Recap of Louis Vuitton’s Glittering Events in Monte Carlo and Paris

Hamish Bowles recalls the magical return to in-person gatherings.

For reasons delusional, I had somehow imagined that Paris’s haute couture week would represent a quiet reemergence into the barely remembered world of in-person fashion shows and gatherings.

How wrong I was! Now, on the TGV train to Avignon-in a state of total collapse, exhaustion, and I would have to add still on a euphoric high at the wonders unveiled over the last few days-my whirlwind twenty-four hours in Monte Carlo a week ago to celebrate the unveiling of Francesca Amfitheatrof’s astounding Louis Vuitton fine jewelry collection seems a demi lifetime away. But what a glamorous way it was to begin a week of wonders.

The excitement began at the Hotel Metropole when my windows opened onto a terrace with views over the port. Seagulls whined overhead, and the salty Mediterranean breeze was balmy after the Manhattan heatwave I had left hours earlier.

Gustave Eiffel no less built the 1889 hotel’s magnificent Art Nouveau atrium-a conservatory of swirling iron volutes-the same year that he constructed his iconic Parisian tower. It’s certainly an evocative place to take breakfast, and I wonder how many hapless gamblers drowned their sorrows under the Belle Epoque plasterwork and gilded rococo scrolls in architect Hans-Goerg Tersling’s wildly over the top ballroom? (Prince Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and no stranger to the delights of the gaming tables, died at the hotel in 1944).

The celebrations began when we took speed boats to a wave-lapped promontory beneath a rocky hillside crowned with La Vigie, the great white cube of a villa built in 1902. It was once lived in by Princess Daisy of Pless and was later restored, at great expense, by the famous and sometimes Monegasque resident Karl Lagerfeld, who lived in it for some years before returning it to the municipality.

Far below, the tables were set with pale coral and spiky blue and white flowers and I soon discovered that I was very happily seated next to the ridiculously pretty Laura Harrier, who was coruscating in Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Louis Vuitton rhinestones and Francesca Amfitheatrof’s incredible blue-green cabochon opal ring that you just wanted to dive into. On my other side was the equally fun Alicia Vikander in a black ‘Smoking’ mini dress and diamonds. The evening was a perfect tonic for jet lag. Opposite me, artist performer Lousita Cash, with a fistful of amazing rings and a gleaming golden Vuitton mini dress, provided more dazzle.

Monte Carlo is certainly an unusual place; as we looked back across the waters at the city, with its hillside crowded with soaring luxury tower blocks and turn of the century villas-some of the world’s most stratospherically costly real estate-Laura wondered playfully whether there had been a power outage: there were hardly any lights on. Our little promontory, however, was soon ablaze-we had a firework show of our own as a parade of models, dressed in black or ivory satin evening dresses, swept past wearing pieces from the new collection.

The following morning Francesca Amfitheatrof gave us a tour of her latest Bravery collection nearby at the Hotel de Paris, and seeing them up close was a next-level experience. Taking the intrepid and self-made Louis Vuitton’s own odyssey-and his embrace of innovation as inspiration-Amfitheatrof used Vuitton’s patented star-cut diamonds and a mesh of rubies in the La Passion necklace-an Edwardian dog collar fit for Moulin Rouge’s Satine, but if I had my druthers and a Monegasque bank account, the collier (with its astounding assemblage of cabochon Tanzanite, opals, and diamonds) would find its way into my Vuitton jewel case.

Then I set off to explore Monte Carlo, taking in the Grimaldi’s picture-perfect, toy town palace and, on Francesca’s advice, the Oceanographic Museum. Built in 1910 at the behest of the seafaring Prince Albert 1st and set on a cliff above the Mediterranean, it is an eccentric triumph of Art Nouveau whimsy on a marine theme. Inside, you’ll find mosaic floors representing translucent octopi or sea birds alighting on frothy waves, as well as exhibitions about the worlds of Prince Albert and Jacques-Yves Cousteau (who served as the institute’s director from 1957 to 1988). It was Amphitheatrof who had the brilliant idea of showcasing Damien Hirst’s work here, which he did in 2010 for the exhibition Cornucopia. To follow, an exceptionally delicious lunch at COYA , the acclaimed Peruvian fusion restaurant, saw me off on my merry way to Paris.

There were more Vuitton festivities in the French capital, this time to celebrate Frank Gehry, who, at 92, has designed his first perfume bottle for the maison. He transformed the vessel containing master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud’s Les Extraits collection of five different fragrances into a small sculpture, with pastel-colored bottles and silver stoppers like scrunched up paper.

The event was hosted within the soaring atrium at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which was a jewel itself; each table was set with a different historic Sevres porcelain service and really exquisite flowers. It all provided a wonderful old world foil to the magnificent Gehry lights above us, floating like giant clouds of crumpled paper.

Chef Jean-Louis Nomicos prepared a tasting menu with each course intended to be evocative of the romantically titled fragrances-Dancing Blossom, for instance, or Cosmic Cloud. Elusive concepts, all, but my goodness, it was delicious! After dessert, Katy Perry took to the stage and gave us, among other songs, Firework. More magic in the City of Light!



Josefine Haaning Jensen



Tamara Kalinic, Caro Daur



Laura Harrier



Lousita Cash



Vuitton's jewels on display at the Musée océanographique de Monaco



Vuitton's jewels on display at the Musée océanographique de Monaco



Christian Louboutin, Peter Marino



Florence Pugh, Lauren Santo Domingo, Jamie Mizrahi



Joan Smalls, Amber Valletta, Virgil Abloh, Bella Hadid



Joan Smalls, Katy Perry



Sophie Turner, Joe Jonas



Virgil Abloh, Bella Hadid

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