By Anna Sekula Posted November 12, 2009, 8:00 AM EST
Like its three-part homage to Stephen Sprouse in January, Louis Vuitton's event Tuesday night was anything but subdued. The two-hour launch that heralded the French fashion house's 2010 cruise collection and its first women's concept store in North America planted guests amid a living garden of trees, foliage, and flowers on the third floor of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Louis Vuitton North America president and C.E.O. Daniel Lalonde, and Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and C.E.O. Stephen Sadove, the night entertained a bevy of well-heeled models, editors, and celebrities, including tennis champ Serena Williams, Vogue publisher Tom Florio, and Vanity Fair executive fashion editor Alexis Bryan Morgan.
To construct the elaborate forest inside the department store, Sandra Mariniello, director of events and special projects for Louis Vuitton North America, and her team tapped David Beahm, who in turn brought in a small army to build, and arrange the decor two and a half hours before the event's 7 p.m. start time. Designed as a showcase for the new wares as well as a retrospective of the 155-year-old company's luxury goods, the event saw artisans crafting pieces in a grove of life-size trees, models chatting in a garden party vignette, jewelry displayed alongside mounds of mums, and attendees posing by an enormous boxwood hedge emblazoned with the retailer's signature monogram.
The night's centerpiece was a wishing tree, where guests were invited to pen their answers to the question “Where will your journey take you?” and hang the messages on strands of ribbon dangling from its branches. And so the interactive visual doesn't go to waste, Louis Vuitton plans to include a collection of some of the messages as part of the seasonal display at its Fifth Avenue store, starting December 1.
To accompany the garden setting, Olivier Cheng Catering and Events served up some decadent nibbles, including truffled foie gras with onion marmalade on raisin pecan toast, warm gougères (gruyere-flavored pastry puffs), and steak with watercress aioli on pomme frites. The dessert selection was a little more playful, with cinnamon, mint, vanilla, and Earl Grey-flavored marshmallow lollipops, flower-shaped chocolate fondants with Grand Marnier, and macaroons.
To show the evening wasn't all about extravagance and luxury, Louis Vuitton also made a donation to Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to impoverished communities. Guests received individual bouquets of white roses, lavendar, mint, and scented geranium as parting gifts.