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Going Dotty: Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton

Thanks to Marc Jacobs, we'll soon be able to wear luxurious garments decorated with Yayoi Kusama's famous polka dots. William Oliver spoke to the two living legends to find out how this dream team came about

Since meeting back in 2006 while filming Loïc Prigent’s documentary Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton, Jacobs and Yayoi Kusama, the polka-dot obsessed Japanese artist, have built a close relationship. A photograph taken of the duo during that meeting has adorned Kusama’s studio wall ever since, while Jacobs describes the day as both “charming and special. We talked a great 
deal about life and work and our passion for making things. She was extremely generous with her time, so that whenever I stood up to leave, 
I ended up sitting back down again.” 

It seems apt then, that when Louis Vuitton sponsored Kusama’s current retrospective touring exhibition (recently shown at Tate Modern), creative director Jacobs made the decision to push the collaboration one step further, with a capsule incorporating Kusama’s work. It’s the latest in a series of artist-inspired collections (previous collaborators include such luminaries as Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami). “When I look at her career and her different vehicles for expressing herself – from early performances staged at MoMA to her sculptures, paintings, canvases, nets and endless polka dots, I find a sort of simplicity, naivety and passion. The fact that she never veers from her vision is really admirable,” he says. “The artists I have chosen to work with have all meant something to me personally, creating a world 
I relate to, and work I love.”

Although she has been making art since 1939, when she was ten years old – her polka dot and infinite-net motifs appeared even then – it was when Kusama arrived in America from Japan during the late 1950s that her career really took off. With strong feminist values and ideas that challenged the notion of society at the time, she rapidly became an integral figure on the New York art scene, curating happenings and events alongside her paintings and sculptures. She often sported a graphic dress-code of a severe bob teamed with colourful, fun yet classic outfits, and it is this signature style, which she has adhered to consistently since, that Jacobs and Kusama have strived to convey in the capsule collection. The collection’s lookbook even includes recreations of some of Kusama’s iconic artworks featuring models made up to look like the artist herself.

The pair have created garments and accessories that are both reminiscent of Kusama’s own code of dress and also reference her art. “I’m proposing Kusama-style with my spirits,” says the artist on the collaboration. “Marc Jacobs is an amazing designer with such artistic talent, and Louis Vuitton’s creative teams have a lot of ideas... but so do I!” The resulting line includes luxurious silk dresses, knitwear, bathing suits, bags and shoes, adorned by Kusama’s polka-dot motif. Rather than Jacobs simply lifting the artist’s most established visual iconography and applying it to his own designs though, this collection has very much been a conversation between two visionaries looking at all aspects of Kusama’s world for inspiration.

Two standout pieces that sum up the meeting of minds and aesthetics between the duo are the beautiful, and contrasting, trenchcoats. One is in bonded cotton, lined with Kusama polka-dots overlaid on an LV monogram fabric, and the other sports the dots in transparent plastic, allowing the wearer “to look as if they had been hand-painted with spots,” says Jacobs. Both are classic pieces with a “Kusama” take that not only look to her work but also her ethos, ideology and personal style. Alongside the garments themselves, Jacobs and Kusama have created a series of smaller objects, such as an elegant minaudière and a small charm, both in the shape of one of Kusama’s famous pumpkin sculptures. Fun and irreverent, the unique collection will almost certainly do just as Kusama hopes – “attract the hearts of people worldwide and expand my polka dots everywhere.”

Photography Leigh Johnson
Karen Langley
Naoki Komiya at Julian Watson
Make Up
Lotten Holmqvist at Julian Watson using Chanel Summer 2012 collection
Tilda Lindstam at IMG
Photo Assistant
Alice Fisher
Styling Assistant
Emma Wyman
Hair Assistant
Jamie McCormick
Make Up Assistant Calli Paice
Noah Shelly at AM Casting

All clothes by Louis Vuitton

The Selfridges London LOUIS VUITTON–YAYOI KUSAMA pop-up store will be open from August 24–October 19, 2012