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Join date : 2010-09-25

PostSubject: Home Again: Louis Vuitton's Style Inspiration   Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:47 pm

Home Again: Louis Vuitton's Style Inspiration
French-born Julie de Libran’s wanderlust infuses not only her personal style but also her resort and cruise collections for Louis Vuitton. However, a peek inside this working mom’s closet shows that sometimes the best fashion ideas are homegrown.

Framed sketches and family photos are propped up on the shelves and tabletops and line the hardwood corridors of Julie de Libran’s sunlit apartment five floors above Paris’ ever-cool Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter. The white walls, however, are mostly bare—the better to spotlight her rotating collection of vintage flea market finds, such as a ram’s horn and a Willy Rizzo late-’60s stainless-steel tripod lamp. “I like things to be moving,” de Libran says. “I like the possibility of change.”

This home-in-motion philosophy is mirrored in the clothes de Libran has been creating for the past two years as women’s design director at Louis Vuitton. Like her boss, Marc Jacobs, she designs with the “Vuitton girl” in mind, which comes rather naturally; the customer she has in mind is urbane and globe-trotting, with a romantic reverence for the past—much like de Libran herself.

“She’s always dressed and has somewhere to go,” says de Libran, who can relate, having called the U.S., Italy, and her native France home. Designing the 2010 cruise collection, she daydreamed about Old Hollywood and pictured the Vuitton girl road-tripping through the mountains to Palm Springs, that bastion of classic midcentury architecture. “It’s about traveling with a free spirit, beautiful vegetation, cactus, and the look of old hotel upholstery,” she says. “I love the conflict of colors in those designs from the ’50s to the ’70s, but I wanted to give it a modern twist and make it very sophisticated.”

“Sophisticated” is de Libran’s ultimate compliment; she uses it to describe any entity that inspires: Jacobs, Vanessa Paradis, Jean Prouvé midcentury metal furniture, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. But in the cruise collection, that sophistication meets playfulness—Miss Vuitton struts through the resort in Lolita pink and green sundresses, day suits, and separates. She likes a bit of whimsy: jeweled cuffs, circle skirts, cardigans with printed fronts and cashmere backs, fingerless gloves adorned with tiny leather flowers. And so, many pieces in her Vuitton wardrobe are finished with the witty, pretty details—guipure florals, silk fils coupe, and turquoise embroidery—that define de Libran’s work.

“I like the feminine,” de Libran says, running a hand through her perfectly mussed long blond hair. “But I do play a little with the feminine-masculine. I love a men’s-style blazer.”

With that, she gestures to a Narnia-deep floor-to-ceiling closet, which seems to be self-generating blazers—the foundation of de Libran’s look. Today, she starts in herringbone, then changes into one of two navy blues—one with exaggerated puff shoulders, one belted—always with black jeans and sky-high heels (de Libran ventured into kitten-heel territory for the very first time this season, in order to keep up with her four-year-old son, Balthazar—and thanks to the Jacobs fall/winter collection, no less).

She describes her style as “working woman urban chic” and takes a heavy navy wool cape off its hanger to illustrate. “This is a can’t-live-without item,” she says, bought when she dashed into a Yohji Yamamoto store en route to a Martin Margiela exhibit in chilly Antwerp, Belgium. When colleagues, watching her work into the night, tell her to take off her jacket, she can’t do it. “You’ll never see me in a T-shirt or tank top at work,” she says. “If I absolutely must take off my jacket, I’ll put it over my shoulders.”

Eveningwear, then, is an easy upgrade: “Always heels.” She holds up a pair of black slouchy high-heel boots from last year’s cruise collection; they’re covered in sequins that glimmer like fish scales. With paisley-print leggings from the fall 2009 show and a tuxedo jacket, they’re “risky but elegant,” she says. “These boots give it attitude!” She laughs when the sexiness of this mental image is immediately deflated by the entrance of Balthazar bearing a tiny guitar.

It’s her son, at least in part, whom she has to thank for her post at Louis Vuitton. After logging years working for Gianfranco Ferré at Dior, then Versace, she spent more than a decade with “Mrs. Prada,” of whom she speaks with genuine reverence. But motherhood made her long to settle permanently in Paris. And on the morning of a lunch meeting with Jacobs to discuss the possibility of a post at Vuitton, she ran into Sofia Coppola—Jacobs’ longtime muse—at Balthazar’s play gym. “I looked at meeting Sofia as a sign,” she says.

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