From the recent outbreak of the Zika virus to this month's presidential impeachment, not to mention one of the worst economic recessions in decades, it hasn't been a good year for Brazil. Things were looking much different only two years ago, when the nation was hailed as a success story among the rising BRIC economies, culminating in the 2014 World Cup, which was hosted in the country.
The world's attention will turn again on Brazil in about two months, when Rio de Janeiro, its most glamorous city, hosts the Olympic Games. While the government is still putting last-minute touches to some of the infrastructure needed for such a gargantuan event, the town is clearly ready to shine once again, as it demonstrated when Louis Vuitton descended upon Rio on Saturday to show its cruise 2017 collection.
You could say that the well-oiled machine that is Louis Vuitton hosted a mini Olympics of its own, flying in hundreds of guests from all over the world and entertaining them for three days of cultural activities amid super-tight security.
After showing Louis Vuitton's last cruise range in a futuristic house in Palm Springs designed by Californian architect John Lautner, Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière reaffirmed his predilection for striking and sci-fi-inspired architecture in Rio, selecting one of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer's most spectacular buildings as the backdrop to the show. Located in the town of Niterói, a 50-minute drive from Copacabana beach, the spaceship-like Niterói Contemporary Art Museum overlooks Guanabara Bay and features a reflecting pool surrounding its cylindrical base.
An athletic vibe pervaded the collection, from the use of materials such as nylon to the prints of soccer players that appeared on a few dresses and bags, an obvious nod to Brazil in a show that felt like a progression on the loose silhouettes and street vibes of Palm Spring. Speed was also on Ghesquière's mind, who showed skirts in bright hues wrapped like beach towels, neoprene sneakers, belts featuring Nascar-like renditions of the Louis Vuitton logo and skinny scarves in silver flowing from the models' necks. The designer clearly puts a lot of thought into the clothes he creates at Vuitton and has managed to build a strong fashion identity for the house, injecting it with a dose of cool that has been synonymous with his work since his days at Balenciaga, but accessories are still the bread and butter of the brand and the designer delivered in that respect with boombox-shaped bags that are sure to become street-style favorites and more sensible pieces such versions of the signature Petite Malle bag featuring army-like shoulder straps.
With a front row that included the odd sight of Catherine Deneuve sitting next to Jaden Smith, Louis Vuitton regulars such as Alicia Vikander and Doona Bae, and Brazilian models Adriana Lima and Isabeli Fontana, not to mention one of the most spectacular settings in an already very photogenic city, this show was another big statement from the house. The fashion pack may be ready to move on to London to see whether there's more than meets the eye behind all the hype surrounding Gucci - the brand du jour unveils its second cruise collection under recently minted creative director Alessandro Michele in the British capital on Thursday - but those of us who have followed Ghesquière's evolution from his very first day at Louis Vuitton can see that rather than a showman, he's an ideas man, taking the label forward into a very distant future with every innovative and electrifying show.