Louis Vuitton has long been at the forefront of the fashion world. Established in 1854, the house of Vuitton is a distinguished brand famous for its timeless leather goods and ability to push the boundaries of fashion whilst maintaining its classic ethos. American designer Marc Jacobs took over as Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton in 1997, continuing the magic of the Parisienne label. Renowned for its decadent shows during Paris Fashion Week, such as Spring/Summer 2012’s carousel of pastel-clad models or Autumn/ Winter 2012’s Orient Express steamrolling onto the runway, Marc Jacobs has successfully managed to mesmerise the fashion world and further the brand’s legacy. An exhibition has recently been opened at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, celebrating the iconic history of the brand and coinciding with Jacobs’ 15 year reign at Louis Vuitton.
The exhibition is perfectly balanced. Featuring two levels, the first is dedicated to the history of Louis Vuitton and its evolution from a Parisienne trunk-maker to a global corporation. Visitors are given an insight into the leather goods designed by Louis Vuitton and the thought process behind his signature piece, the perfect trunk. The craftsmanship behind every piece is evident as we are shown the aims behind the trunk – rigidity, solidity and functionality – which become more creative with the addition of a trunk that opens up to reveal a sun lounger. The evolution of the trunks starts to take form with the creation of the infamous LV logo; designed in 1896, four years after the founder’s death, Georges Vuitton created the LV logo as a modernisation of the original “L Vuitton marque de fabrique deposée” inscription on the “Damier” patterned trunks. As a whole, the first floor serves to show the establishment of an iconic brand based upon the desirability to create useful yet beautiful products.
The second floor is a world away from the calm and minimal atmosphere of the first floor. Upon ascending the stairs it is evident you are entering Marc Jacobs territory. With dark decor and a thudding bass coming through the speakers as the Daft Punk remix of Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ plays (the soundtrack of the Paris Spring/Summer 2008 show) the atmosphere is buzzing and there is a distinct feeling of being at a fashion show. Highlights of the second floor include an entire wall displaying handbags from over the years, collections from 1998 onwards, particularly the controversial outfit Kate Moss wore on the A/W 2011 runway, and displays of collaborations with Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami. The exhibition makes it clear that handbags have been and always will be at the forefront of the brand. The wall of handbags is adorned with updated versions of the classic Speedy, Neverfull and Keepall bags, to name but a few. With modern variations of classic canvases complete with the iconic Damier and LV monograms, it is here that we can see Marc Jacobs’ artistic direction at its best; each season he reinterprets the classic bag models, all the while in keeping with the Louis Vuitton aesthetic.
Overall, the exhibition cleverly juxtaposes both Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs by contrasting the old with the new, classicism with modernisation. It is easy to see why Louis Vuitton has maintained its title as one of the most creative and well-respected brands in the fashion industry, due to the element of seriousness in the presentation of the exhibition combined with just the right amount of fun, such as the waving Marc Jacobs statue bidding visitors goodbye as they exit. An information panel summarises the key to the brand’s success: “Both men provide complementary solutions to the needs of their era, which is precisely what makes them such perfect partners through time”.
After thoroughly enjoying the exhibition, the icing on the cake was meeting Marc Jacobs himself who by chance happened to be there giving a guided tour to his friends. Unlike some celebrities, he graciously took the time to talk and sign autographs with visitors showing himself to be appreciative of those who admire his work. Marc Jacobs understands the importance of the relationship between fashion and the individual, for he once said: “For some, life has no meaning without fashion, but for me, fashion has no meaning without life”. And that is the beauty behind the Louis Vuitton legacy he so successfully carries on.
Sarah Louise Feeney
Image – Charlie Phillips