Louis Vuitton takes Baroque and botanical cues from Italy's Isola Bella for Cruise 2024 collection

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A model wears a creation as part of the women's Louis Vuitton Cruise 2024 collection, unveiled on Isola Bella (Bella Island) on Lake Maggiore in Stresa, northern Italy, Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

STRESA – Incessant rain failed to put a damper on Nicolas Ghesquiere’s ambitions for his Louis Vuitton 2024 Cruise collection, unveiled Wednesday to an A-list crowd including Oprah Winfrey, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Stone.

Originally envisioned against a golden sunset setting aglow magnificent fountain on the aptly named Isola Bella on northern Italy’s Lake Maggiore, the show was instead moved into the stately public rooms of the Borromeo Palace, construction of which was started in the 17th century and only completed 400 years later, after World War II. The sprawling palace near the Swiss border remains the summer residence of the Borromeo family.

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Destination cruise shows are among the fashion world’s most ambitious, taking the fashion crowd to some of the planet’s most scenic locations. The internet still buzzes over Ghesquiere’s Cruise 2018 show in Kyoto and Cruise 2017 in Rio de Janeiro.

The Isola Bella show was no less enterprising, imagined amid the island’s botanical gardens against the backdrop of a tiered fountain adorned with mythical creatures. In his notes, Ghesquiere described the collection as a sort of “archaeology of the future,″ set on an island that ”beckons more dreamlike reflections.”

The creative force behind Louis Vuitton for the last decade combined Baroque references easily identified in oil paintings hanging throughout the palace, like accordion collars, with modern materials like neoprene and sporty silhouettes that layered boxers over biker shorts paired with rounded quilted tops.

Some of Ghesquiere’s creations could easily emerge from the lake’s depths, with neoprene webbing creating wings on cropped tops and giving movement to flouncy skirts, fit for a freshwater mermaid. The late Renaissance came to life in knave overalls with blousy tops, sequined skirts that suggested chain mail armor and tapestry detailing on jacket sleeves. Elaborate feathered and gilded headdresses created drama.

A series of frothy dresses with sheer panels and satin trim falling into stiff, wire hemlines closed the show in a flurry of peach, sage, pink and yellow. The princess dresses were finished with mid-calf boots with criss-crossing straps.

“What I loved is the concept of the modern princess that doesn’t need a prince anymore,’’ said Italian actress Sabrina Impacciatore, whose career has been boosted by her portrayal of hotel manager Valentina on the second season of “White Lotus.”

“It is the spirit that I have seen in every outfit and I really loved it. It is about a powerful girl, a really powerful girl, who does not renounce her femininity,’’ Impacciatore said, testing out a new alter-ego in a full-leather jump suit.

While hundreds of invited guests watched the show inside the palace, the Parisian fashion house ran a walk through during an afternoon break in the rain for photographers. To anyone watching the show in streaming, the models strolled in the open air against the backdrop of a Baroque fountain as Ghesquiere intended.

Winfrey, in a belted tunic over matching trousers, was attending her first fashion show set in Italy.

She has been busy recently promoting the remake of “The Color Purple,” which she produced. It is due out in December, nearly four decades after the original 1985 film for which she earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. Winfrey called the 2023 film “a revival of joy.”

“I think what it has to offer is a sense of hopefulness and empowerment for women,'' she said before the show. ”I hope women come together with their friends, their sisters and families and come to see it. It is going to be rejoicing."

Asked about reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsome had floated her name as a possible candidate to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she should resign, Winfrey indicated she did not see politics in her future.

“Not on my plate,'' she said. ”That's not me. I'm flattered. I'm honored."

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