Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton women’s wear and one of the designer jewels in the LVMH crown, has spoken out — or posted anyway — to dissociate himself with his company’s new association with President Trump.
A brief recap: Last Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump cut the ribbon on a spanking-new Louis Vuitton workshop facility in Johnson County, Texas. It was an anomalous gathering of formerly autonomous beings (Mr. Trump, Bernard Arnault, cows) that created such a startling picture that it had outsize repercussions — and set off all sorts of debates over the question of brands and their responsibilities toward certain moral standards.
Though Mr. Arnault said the decision to have the president appear was apolitical — he offered! we were flattered! it’s about jobs! — it is increasingly clear that for many, the fact that Vuitton allowed itself to be a part of the president’s mythmaking was, well, collusion.
Mr. Ghesquière included.
On Sunday, he made a post on Instagram featuring a photo of the cover of a single called “High Energy,” the 1984 disco song by Evelyn Thomas that is featured in the SoBe Music compilation album “Gay Classics, Volume 1: Ridin’ the Rainbow.”
As of Monday, the post had been applauded by such fashion figures as Camille Miceli (the accessories creative director of Louis Vuitton), the stylists-to-the-stars Karla Welch and Elizabeth Stewart, Ronnie Cooke Newhouse (the wife of Jonathan Newhouse, the chairman of Condé Nast), the costume designer Arianne Phillips (“morals over profits,” she wrote) and the designers Giambattista Valli and Julien Dossena (of Paco Rabanne).
Mr. Ghesquière does not have any direct responsibilities for the factory in Texas. As the head of women’s wear, he is responsible for the runway collections and works on the fashion accessories (the bag collaborations and limited-edition lines tied to the runway).
The Texas factory will make the classic bag styles that form the bread and butter of the brand. To be fair, there is no reason he should have been consulted on who cut its ribbon.
Still, it is a pretty radical move for a designer who is among the most known high-fashion creatives in the business to publicly chastise his employer — a company run by one of the most powerful men in France — for such a splashy event.
Mr. Ghesquière’s venting may not have been intended to set off a firestorm, but even so, it puts Louis Vuitton in a complicated place.
On the one hand, Vuitton’s creative face has just veered pretty far from its norms, and made headlines. On the other, free speech! It wouldn’t be seemly in this particular environment, with the rise of the far right across much of Europe, to be seen as the corporate behemoth squashing the right of an individual to express his beliefs.
Which may be why, when asked about it, a spokesman for LVMH said that the group declined to comment. Why Mr. Ghesquière did not respond to requests for further comment.
And why Virgil Abloh, who is the artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear and, as an American, may be expected to have even more impassioned feelings about the president, also did not respond. (Well, he wrote “Heyyy” in a text message, but nothing after that.)
It also may be why a new conspiracy theory posits that LVMH is tacitly supporting Mr. Ghesquière’s social media protest, as it gets itself (a little) out of the hole it dug by aligning itself with the president. Given the Machiavellian reputation of the conglomerate, that is not a completely crazy idea.
It’s worth noting that the ribbon cutting did not appear on the official Louis Vuitton social media feeds, which suggests the company was not as ignorant of the optics as it insisted. Though that’s potentially overthinking it.
In any case, what makes this really worth watching is what happens next. Mr. Ghesquière is widely seen as one of the most influential designers of his generation — the reason Louis Vuitton hired him, with much fanfare, in the first place — so this could be a pace-setting moment, a flexion point in the relationship between designers and brands, and fashion and politics.
Will Mr. Ghesquière become the new poster boy for fashion-against-Trump, and lead the way in a fresh fashion revolt against the American president? Will he inspire his peers to stand up for their own values, separate from those of their corporate parents? Will what started as a simple ribbon-cutting photo op turn out to be one of those moments that shifted the power structure and industry identity?
Will it all prove a momentary distraction, soon to be overwhelmed by whatever Trump-inspired outrage happens next?
Any of those scenarios are possible.
And Mr. Ghesquière is not alone in his protest. Shannon Coulter, the founder of #grabyourwallet, the social media campaign that encourages consumer boycotts of brands that profit from their relationship with the Trumps, initially said she would not add Louis Vuitton to the list, but then changed her mind.