Introducing Louis Vuitton's Capsule Collection For The 35th America's Cup

Sallying forth in style.

BY Renjie Wong | Apr 25, 2016 | Fashion

Photography by Ivanho Harlim and Shysilia Novita | Styling by Eugene Lim | All looks from Louis Vuitton America's Cup collection.

I don’t know about you, but my idea of the perfect sailing experience involves leggy blondes, the Côte d’Azur and a case of gently chilled Dom Pérignon (I prefer the 2004, but will settle for the 2003 if push comes to shove).

And so one evening a couple of years ago, when my pre-dinner apéritif—taken along the San Francisco waterfront under the glorious Californian sun—was quite rudely interrupted by yells from a massive racing yacht hurtling by, I truly couldn’t have been more miffed. “Why in the world,” I sputtered at the poor waitress while aggrievedly ordering another Aperol spritz, “would anyone think to ruin this relaxing view, with what should be a relaxing pastime?”

The waitress, a kindly madam clearly used to all sorts of disgruntled customer complaints, automatically nodded her head in solidarity and clucked soft words of sympathy. 

It turns out that behemoth yacht was the winning vessel of the 34th America’s Cup, the most prestigious sailing yacht race in the world. Of course, I only learned this by chance, when upon returning home, I was asked by my editor if I had watched the world-famous yacht race while in the Fog City. (“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” she enthused, clearly a little too late.)

Three weeks and countless late-night YouTube videos later, I found myself hopelessly sucked into the enthralling world of yacht racing, with all of its athleticism and adrenaline thrill. As the oldest international sporting trophy, the America’s Cup Series, held every three to four years, is perhaps the most closely watched sailing event in the world. For there truly is something quite hypnotic about watching two vessels slice neck-to-neck across the water—one yachting team defending their previously-won trophy, the other challenging for stewardship of said cup—in a series of races held around the world.

Which is not to say that I have at all abandoned my very French vision of the perfect sailing experience. In fact, anyone who knows me is well aware that I have absolutely no measure of said athleticism and/or adrenaline thrill. It turns out, however, that the French people’s obsession with the sea runs far deeper than regularly scarfing down half a dozen Breton oysters at lunch. From the Mississippi delta escapades of René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle in the 17th century to Théodore Géricault’s monumental Romantic masterpiece Le Radeau de la Méduse, the French have been enamoured of floating about in the middle of the ocean for much of their cultural history.

And if Louis Vuitton’s extremely nautical Island Maison in Singapore didn’t already give it away, the Parisian house has itself also always had an inextricable link to sailing the seas. One mustn’t forget, after all, that the Louis Vuitton empire was built upon their sterling reputation as a malletier nonpareil, constructing travel trunks for Parisians embarking on trans-Atlantic voyages to America.

Indeed, so powerful is this maritime bond that for more than 30 years, it has sponsored the Louis Vuitton Cup, the highly coveted prize of the America Cup’s challenger selection series. Next year, though, the Parisian grande dame ups the ante. Louis Vuitton will build on its longstanding partnership with the yachting event, serving as presenting partner of the 35th America’s Cup Match—to be held in 2017 in Bermuda, Gothenburg and Portsmouth—and as title partner of the America’s Cup World Series, the America’s Cup Qualifiers and the Challenger Playoffs.

It’s not hard to fathom why these two cultural institutions have, over the years, happily anchored themselves to each other. “The America’s Cup, the holy grail of yachting, sees challengers racing across the oceans becoming a lifelong quest,” Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke explains to us. “The freedom, the courage, the skill and the competence that it requires reflect the true spirit of Louis Vuitton.”

Which really sounds like little more than a bunch of quotable quotes strung together for regurgitation in PR interviews come race day—at least, until you realise that they’ve also crafted an entire collection that actually encapsulates all of these traits. Now, Lord only knows how the nautical aesthetic is a little bit of a sartorial Bermuda’s Triangle. Singapore’s surrounded on all sides by the sea, but we’ve all seen that one yacht club aspirant out on the town—and resolutely inland—unexplainably decked out in Breton stripes, boat shoes and a captain’s hat. Of course, following the good counsel of my mother to “keep that big mouth of yours shut, Renjie, you literally never have anything nice to say about others,” I typically refrain from comment—but always make a mental note to give such people a wide, wide berth.

But Dieu merci for that shining beacon of elegance and sophistication that is Parisian taste. The tides of my yachting interests may have shifted, but I sure know a lush quilted vest (with suede detailing in a nautical colourway) when I see one, and the America’s Cup capsule collection happens to be full of them. The exclusively designed pieces don’t so much incorporate the entire nautical aesthetic as they do subtle motifs from the world of yachting—the flag semaphore, for instance—employing all of sailing’s sleek glory and none of its tired Popeye the Sailor Man kitsch. Perhaps the collection’s greatest strength is its sheer versatility: having personally test-driven the collection, we at Esquire can confirm that it bears as much sartorial currency in Shenton Way as in Sentosa.

Kim Jones’ playful vision is readily evident in the beach-ready looks, with all-over yacht prints on nylon swimwear and jersey tops. It shines through best, however, in the day- and evening-appropriate outfits, which effortlessly weave quirky detail into handsome classic garments. A standard navy suit turns out to be wittily constructed from tropical seersucker, while black lace-ups reveal upon closer inspection micro-flag motifs and a Basque espadrille trim, turning even the most serious into the seaworthy. (Not that anything can really look ungainly, to be fair, when you’re wearing trousers as well-tailored as the collection’s ivory twill chinos.) Perhaps our favourite pieces of all are the leather goods: keepalls, bucket bags and portfolios in the Damier cobalt check, splashed with a deconstructed Gaston “V” emblem (first used in its original form in 1901) in the French Tricolour. No wonder, then, that this collection was inspired by the style and the legacy of one John F Kennedy—we have no doubt that the erstwhile US president, yachting enthusiast and all-round sartorial superstar would have rocked each piece like no other.

So I don’t know about you, but come June 2017, I will be watching the 35th America’s Cup races intently. Now all I need to do is figure out how to do just that, while being surrounded by leggy blondes on a yacht off the Côte d’Azur with some Dom Pérignon and, optimistically, wearing that lush quilted vest.

From: Esquire Singapore's April 2016 issue.