When it comes to art-fashion collaborations, Louis Vuitton wrote the rulebook and found itself transformed from venerated luggage maker to cultural force. This is the kind of game-changing magic that can happen when two brilliant minds meet.
And in anticipation of Louis Vuitton's upcoming Time Capsule exhibition in Malaysia (which we will announce more details next week!), we chronicle the French house's most iconic art-meets-fashion moments.
Back in 2001, Marc Jacobs had been at the helm of Louis Vuitton for a few years and was looking for a way to inject new edge and energy into the Vuitton vernacular. Inspired by the witty irreverence of Marcel Duchamp and an LV trunk he saw in Charlotte Gainsbourg’s apartment which had been spraypainted black by her father, Serge—Jacobs wanted to find a way to “deface” the iconic monogram, making it new again. Enter Stephen Sprouse, the designer and artist who electrified the Eighties with his high-impact neons and his blurring of the boundaries between fashion, art and design. Equal parts punk and Pop Art, the collaboration was reprised in 2009 with iconic Sprouse motifs like the graffiti and the supersized roses rendered in Day-Glo hues over Vuitton classics and pieces like T-shirts and sneakers, thus bringing the street into high fashion before high fashion streetwear was a thing.
The Sprouse collaboration might have been the one that kickstarted it all, but it was the Takashi Murakami partnership that proved to be the juggernaut that just won’t quit. Jacobs enlisted the Japanese artist to put his whimsical, kawaii spin on the French brand’s motifs and icons in 2003, and the resulting pieces sparked endless wait lists and spawned countless imitators. More than a decade has passed but who could forget the Multicolore monogram, the Cherry Blossom, the Monogramouflage and the cartoonish Characters prints? Balancing fine art sensibility with blockbuster commercial appeal, the pieces were coveted by fashion insiders and artworld types as much as tabloid fixtures and pop stars. The maison produced Murakami pieces for almost 13 years before discontinuing the line, but the current nostalgia for early- Noughties style has brought the collab to the forefront of the fashion conversation once again.
Yayoi Kusama is another artist whose oeuvre seems tailor-made for a Louis Vuitton collaboration. The visual harmony of the LV monogram mashed up with Kusama’s spots was undeniable, with Jacobs calling both motifs “endless and timeless”. A prolific icon of the 1960s art world, Kusama produced works in multiple disciplines ranging from painting and sculpture to performance, installations and fashion. Unnervingly bold, the most famous of her surrealist work creates the illusion of an infinite universe with entire rooms, objects, costumes, even performers and animals covered in her signature repetitive spots. Fittingly, the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collection, which launched in 2012, was the brand’s most extensive collaboration with an artist, with Kusama’s spots splashed on all forms of ready-to-wear pieces and accessories.
For the past few years, Nicolas Ghesquiere has taken to showing his runway collections for Louis Vuitton at the Louvre, France’s most revered museum. In 2017, the brand’s latest artist collaboration built even further on that conversation. Teaming up with Jeff Koons, arguably the most famous contemporary artist alive—certainly the most expensive with his recordbreaking Rabbit—a capsule was released, adapted from Koon’s 2013 Gazing Ball series in which works by Old Masters were reproduced in large-scale and painted by hand. For Vuitton, masterpieces by Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Fragonard, Titian and Rubens were transposed onto the brand’s iconic Speedy, Keepall and Neverfull bags with Koons’ initials inserted into the monogram and his signature inflatable rabbit turned into a hang tag.