Taken from the April 2012 issue of Dazed and Confused.
Tracking Louis Vuitton throughout its grand and illustrious past, right up to its reimagining by Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton/Marc Jacobs, in association with an exhibition held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, offers a formidable insight into this world leader in luxury. Written and curated by Louvre fashion and textile chief Pamela Golbin and edited by stylist superstar Katie Grand, who has worked on the team for ten years, Louis Vuitton/Marc Jacobs goes beneath the surface of the French house we know today.
Marc Jacobs: How can things move forward if you never question them or challenge them? Change is a great and horrible thing, and people love it or hate it at the same time.
Divided into two parts, the beautifully and aptly packaged publication begins at the beginning with the man himself, and shows the craftsmanship, prestige and dedication that makes up the heritage of Vuitton. The innovations brought into the luggage industry by the label at the turn of the 20th century – such as the use of watertight lightweight fabrics and signature damiers to reduce illicit copies – are highlighted, as is the high-profile clientele procured during Mr Vuitton’s lifetime.
But it’s with the beginning of Marc Jacobs’s reign in 1997 that Golbin’s book really comes into its own, offering a valuable and intimate view of a voyage of discovery for an American designer at the head of a French house. Golbin shows how Jacobs has subtly and respectfully made LV his own, while retaining its character. “He really did begin at LV with a white clean slate,” she says. “Metaphorically so because that first collection was almost entirely white, but also as there had never been any ready-to-wear at Vuitton. He could start from zero and I think he took the right route, growing in crescendo and developing a proper stylistic vocabulary."
Katie Grand recalls highlights of ten years styling at Louis Vuitton: “This was the season we looked at lots of French couture clients past and present. We wanted a very decadent and opulent look – almost Louis XIV – mixed with Deee-Lite. So the shoes were brocade and had an old-French-meets-Lady-Miss-Kier look. Lucy, one of the designers, tied a bit of pink silk around her ponytail which I loved as it looked like rabbit ears (and I’d just been bought a rabbit). And thus, in my mind, it became the ‘Bunny’ season.”
Slowly but surely, Jacobs has developed that vocabulary into something recognised the world over, and it’s perhaps what Golbin describes as the “ongoing continuum that often leads him to the opposite of his previous collection” that has moved him into pre-fall 2012. In contrast to his last show’s tough, dark, almost fetishistic offering, he’s gone back to his roots with softer colours and shapes and a natural, light feel. “I know this was the first time in many years that he looked at his first collection for LV, which was soft and very white, grey and black, and more about fabric than construct,” says Golbin. “You can certainly see that in this current collection.”
Now in his 15th year at the house, the American designer has taken the time to create something that is inherently a little bit of both himself and Louis Vuitton. Golbin explains: “Bringing that energy of high and low end, which has always been part of his aesthetic, to the fashion aspect of the house, but without trying to monopolise what was always part of the Vuitton history, is what has made it such an incredibly important luxury brand.”
Marc Jacobs: I personally am a big believer in evolution rather than revolution.
Marc Jacobs, interviewed by Murray Healy:
Dazed & Confused: Do you have an image of the Louis Vuitton woman in your head?
Marc Jacobs: I don’t think there is just one Louis Vuitton woman. That is why, for the fall/winter 2011 show, I loved the idea of lots of different characters – a wife, a mistress, a girlfriend – stepping out of the row of hotel elevators. The Louis Vuitton woman is more about a quality – a quality within some women that needs to come forward, to be noticed and recognised.
D&C : Has your vision of the Louis Vuitton woman evolved over time?
Marc Jacobs: At the beginning, your ideas were perhaps less specific? So much has changed since the beginning… In any creative process – and particularly when, as in the case of Louis Vuitton, there was no ready-to-wear heritage – you always need to find out what you can play with and how you can play with it. Time plays a part in that. I personally am a big believer in evolution rather than revolution.
D&C: How does the creative process start when designing a collection?
Marc Jacobs: In the beginning, there is an idea, but the road to that idea is not always so clear. The clarity comes from doing and making, trying and retrying… I have been told by some people that I actually do know from the beginning what the collection is going to be, but I myself cannot see that. I really believe that it is the process, not the initial idea, that creates the end result.
Katie Grand on Louis Vuitton SS08: “They started working with Richard Prince early on in the season. He would send his canvasses to the studio and we were literally putting them on the photocopier to work out the placements for the bags. The whole studio was full of his paintings in various sizes and colours – I remember just laughing about how they were all propped up on the floor! The idea of the nurses came about really late, probably about a week before the show, and Marc suggested opening with Stephanie Seymour as she was a collector of Prince. I was so excited to meet her. This was the season that the fittings went on for hours and hours as all of the ‘nurses’ were so famous and so chatty.”
D&C: Respect and disrespect characterise your approach of creativity. Can you explain?
Marc Jacobs: It’s logical. How can things move forward if you never question them or challenge them? Change is a great and horrible thing, and people love it or hate it at the same time. Without change, however, you just don’t move. I think we have been very successful at creating a parallel universe. You walk into a Louis Vuitton store, and all the luxury and savoir-faire of making a trunk is there, but you also know that people do not travel with trunks anymore. Therefore, there has to be something more. I was not brought in to create the new version of the trunk; I was brought in to appeal to people who carry Louis Vuitton on the streets or on the red carpet – the world we live in today.
So you just wait for the process to… Luckily, there are a lot of people around me who, maybe, on those days have ideas. It’s that blankpaper thing. There are days when I feel paralysed and think, ‘Oh, there’s no big idea’, but sometimes a little idea gains momentum. Sometimes, you just have to clear your head and get out to see other things. It is very important to be nourished. I love to go to museums and galleries, I like to see theatre, film, dance – anything creative. It doesn’t promise you inspiration, but it nourishes your creative soul, and that’s good.
D&C: Regarding your collaborations with artists, you already knew Stephen Sprouse, so it must have been quite an organic process to get him involved. Was it the same with Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince?
Marc Jacobs: Each one was different. I knew Richard before and had loved his work for a long time, so I asked him to collaborate. For Takashi, I had just been to an exhibition of his work at Fondation Cartier which had greatly impressed me. I didn’t know him as a person, but I just called up and said, ‘Would you like to come over and talk about doing something?’ It was an impulsive thing, really, but it worked because he was interested and we got along. Each of the collaborations was truly an exchange of creative ideas between two people who do different products and have different talents – it was a great coming together of different media.
D&C: Did you choose these particular artists because you thought they were complementary to the Louis Vuitton universe, or was it more antagonistic?
Marc Jacobs: No, it was impulsive. Obviously, I had reasons for choosing them, but ultimately they were personal things, and I just believed – especially after speaking to each of them separately, after sensing their enthusiasm – that it would be fine. I have certainly spoken to other people with whom it was clear after one meeting that the collaboration would not work. Obviously, they shall remain nameless. If a person says to me, ‘Well, you can use my artwork’, then I am not interested. I am interested in the collaboration. I do not want to be given a couple of paintings, or photocopies of paintings, and be told, ‘Do what you want with them.’
Katie Grand on AW06: “I call this collection ‘Sprouse the Second’. A lot of leopard had been shown at the men’s shows that season and Marc and I liked the idea of using it in some way. He suggested using the Sprouse leopard, which was first commissioned in 2000. Then we started looking at images of Stephen Sprouse and the ideas for the hats came from there. I remember calling Stephen Jones at 3am asking if he could come over to help, and Stephen being Stephen, he said, ‘Of course, see you in half an hour.’ We’ve worked with him most seasons since.”
Photography: KACPER KASPRYZK
Styling: ROBBIE SPENCER
Hair: VI SAPYYAPY at CALLISTE
Make-up: MEGUMI ITANO at CALLISTE
Model: QUERELLE at NATHALIE
Photographic assistants: VIRGILE BIECHY, CHRISTOPHE BERLET
Styling assistants: BLAKE ABBIE, ELIZABETH FRASER-BELL
Digital operator: HARRY CELL
Casting: NOAH SHELLEY for AM CASTING