By Eric Wilson
Updated May 19, 2014 @ 2:30 pm
Jennifer Connelly, Nicolas Ghesquiere, and Princess Charlene of Monaco
Credit: Didier Baverel/WireImage

Traveling to Monaco for a whirlwind weekend, to see the second collection designed by Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton, has left your correspondent feeling somewhat overloaded with visual data. Metal barricades going up along the winding streets in preparation for the Grand Prix, skyscrapers overcrowded in a dizzying mélange of architecture, celebrities arriving by helicopters from the Cannes Film Festival, a seaside nightclub with buckets of champagne and vodka on ice at every table, where things don’t really get started before 1 a.m.

Destination fashion shows are becoming increasingly popular among the designers of the world’s most lucrative luxury brands as a way to distinguish their work and to create special experiences for their best customers (in this case including some unfathomably wealthy women who are already acquiring five-figure pieces from Ghesquière’s debut fall collection). So one of the many interesting things about Ghesquière’s first cruise collection was how he made use of this extravagance and the surreal scenery of Monaco in his designs.

“I find it very exotic,” Ghesquière said. “It’s really crazy—the architecture, the collage of all the buildings with the rocks and the palace. For the first cruise show to be in Monaco was quite inspiring.”

At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, around 300 guests (very intimate by fashion standards) arrived at the Palace Square for the show, which was presented under the patronage of Princess Charlene and required them to be in their seats before her arrival, per royal protocol. On the palace grounds, Louis Vuitton had built its runway within a large glass cube, with curving couches of a Pierre Paulin design squiggling across the glass floor. Jennifer Connelly, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Brit Marling, Mackenzie Davis and Rinko Kikuchi took their seats, and then at 6:59 p.m., everyone stood for the arrival of Charlene with Prince Albert. Dove gray curtains on tracks began to close off the space as the show began, and video monitors underneath the glass runway showed water rushing over rocks, which was a powerful setting for a terrific show.

Ghesquière described his collection as an evolution of the wardrobe he proposed for fall, but it had far more color and embellishment on snakeskin jackets and gauzy dresses, one with a zipper front and a panel of delicate plissé at the hem, in addition to a reprisal of the multi-color bouclé from fall. Incredible textile details are a Ghesquière signature, as seen here in dresses that looked like they were made of mesh or grommets, but up close were carefully spaced aqua or pale pink sequins. Some of his references to Monaco were subtle, such as black lace that recalled the photography of Helmut Newton, who had an apartment here, and some were overt, like a dress that had all the action of the Grand Prix, including a checkered flag motif.

Jennifer Connelly (below), a longtime fan, was sold. “It was great,” she said, “like his designs always are—surprising, innovative, fresh, really bold and beautiful.”

Jennifer Connolly at Louis Vuitton Cruise Show
Credit: Rindoff/Le Segretain/French Select via Getty Images