Collaboration has become so ubiquitous and matter of fact for fashion designers and brands that we forget when it used to be uncommon delights. From the end of June, Louis Vuitton will be mounting an exhibition, Louis Vuitton X, to journey through 160 years of creative exchange and artistic partnerships.
From its earliest days, the trunk and leather makers have worked on myriad special orders. The needs and desires of those rich enough to order custom Vuitton trunks are, as you might imagine, quite boundless. That sort of open-ended approach to creation lends itself especially well in the modern age, when the creative output of a brand is enriched by a variety of input.
The house has also aligned itself closely with the art world, especially so since the Fondation Louis Vuitton was established in 2006 as an art and cultural centre. The building, a one-of-a-kind Frank Gehry design, is just one more name that Vuitton has on its list of collaborators. Around the world, the brand’s global flagship la maison boutiques are almost always designed by the New York architect Peter Marino; its contemporary ‘Horizon’ line of rolling and soft luggage, the packaging of the brand’s nascent range of perfumes and its associated travel sizes and cases, and a series of ceramic scented candles by Marc Newson. You get the gist.
This is not, however, a chronological show. The exhibition splits itself up among 9 rooms:
1. Louis Vuitton: As Seen By Artists
The first room of the show is dedicated to the brand’s work with fine artists, highlights among them the American figurative painter Alex Katz, the figurative portraiture of Shanghai-born Yan Pei Ming, and the evocative tree-scapes of South Korean photographer Bae Bien-U.
2. Origins: A Tradition Of Modernity
This section is dedicated to the uncommon, curio products from Louis Vuitton. At its most modern are designs such as the Horizon rolling luggage by Marc Newson; the Concertina Chair designed by the London studio Raw edges for Vuitton’s Objet Nomades range of exceptional homeware; a hard-shell guitar case by Kim Jones and Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment in 2018; a collapsible trunk bed whose design can be traced back to its earliest incarnation from 1905 – a custom order for a French explorer.
3. Reinterpreting Icons
For fashion lovers, this section will prove most fulfilling as it focuses on the brand’s one-off collaborations with fashion designers to reinterpret staples and icons from the Louis Vuitton canon. For the centenary of the monogram canvas, the house enlisted Azzedine Alaïa to create a panther fur-wrapped Alma bag; from Manolo Blahnik, a shoe trunk for travel; a record case by Helmut Lang, presented by the Hip-Hop artist Grandmaster Flash. And from another project to celebrate the monogram, a traveling studio-in-a-trunk by Cindy Sherman, and (a personal favourite) a canvas tote by Rei Kawakubo with holes seared into the fabric.
4. The Monogram As A Blank Canvas
Monogram as canvas rounds up the imaginative twists on one of the world’s most famous logos. From Marc Jacobs’ time, the accessory collaborations with Stephen Sprouse, Yayoi Kusama, Wes Anderson for the film ‘Darjeeling Limited’, Sofia Coppola on her line of best-selling Speedy bags, and Takashi Murakami. More recently, the blockbuster Supreme collaboration with Kim Jones’ Fall/Winter 2017 men’s collection; and Jeff Koons’ subversive use of paintings by old masters like Da Vinci, Fragonard, and Titiens, among others.
5. Art On Silk
Perhaps the most straightforward, the section on silks sees the house’s regular involvement of creative contributors to the almost blank canvas medium of a silk carré scarf. Names like Sol Lewitt, Sandro Chia, James Rosenquist, Philippe Starck, and Andrée Putman.
6. Art Meets Fashion
On the runway, the brand’s creative directors have never shied away from borrowing from artists. Marc Jacobs’ nurse collection in Spring/Summer 2008 and its use of the watercolour shades of the artist Richard Prince; Nicolas Ghesquière’s appropriation of Kansai Yamamoto in Cruise 2018; Kim Jones’ work with the Chapman Brothers and Christopher Nemeth; and Virgil Abloh’s debut men’s collection for Spring/Summer 2019 featuring artworks inspired by the Wizard of Oz.
7. Lights, Camera, Action! Louis Vuitton On The Red Carpet
Easily the most glamorous, this section tracks the custom creations for celebrities on the red carpet. You’ll mostly recognise dresses worn by friends and ambassadors of the house under Ghesquière’s reign: Alicia Vikander, Léa Seydoux, Ruth Negga, Emma Stone, Sophie Turner, and Michelle Williams.
Artycapucines: Six Visions of a Contemporary Classic
Closing the show is the brand’s latest artistic collaboration. The Capucines bag silhouette, a stately and structured design, has been made a tabula rasa canvas for six contemporary artists – Sam Falls, Urs Fischer, Nicholas Hlobo, Alex Israel, Tschabalala Self, and Jonas Wood – to put their own spin on. The result is six wildly different designs, some using intense colours that demanded precision dyeing and stitching, digital printing and 3D embroidery, removable hand-crafted dangling fruits, hand-laced and stitched leather patterns, painstakingly embroidered leather patchwork, and intricate mother-of-pearl work.
Because of the intensity of craft needed to realise these creative visions, the ArtyCapucines collection will be produced in limited numbered editions of just 300. These will be available for order from 25 June 2019.
The show will be held in 468 North Rodeo Drive in California, a two-storey property that LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault purchased for an alleged USD250 million in 2018. The building, which had been previously leased by Brooks Brothers, had become the subject of curiosity as real estate observers waited to see what Arnault intended to do with the lot. The answer seems clear now, and it's a refreshing use of prime space for more than just another flagship boutique. If you're going to be in California, why not make the trip to see the show?
Admission to Louis Vuitton X is free, and the show runs from 28 June 2019 to 15 September 2019, opening from 10am to 7pm at 468 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.