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Photography by Lea Colombo

Marc Jacobs' Vuitton: A visual journey

A retrospective look at Marc Jacobs' Louis Vuitton as his departure is announced

TextTrey TaylorPhotographyLea Colombo

After a sixteen year tenure at one of the most profitable and prestigious Paris fashion houses, Marc Jacobs exits Louis Vuitton, leaving a legacy in his wake. The exit, which is reportedly a move to pursue an IPO for his eponymous brand, comes at the end of Paris fashion week. This SS14 season, Jacobs sent his models out in all black – perhaps a sombre nod to his departure – sporting feathered headdresses by Stephen Jones and intricately embroidered dresses. In true Jacobs spirit, he combined the brazen theatricality of past collections and married them in a mammoth set: the carousel from his SS 2012 show, escalators from SS 2013, elevators from FW 2011, and fountains from FW 2010. Graceful and demure, the girls did one last turn while the shownotes read: “For Robert Duffy and Bernard Arnault, all my love, always. To the showgirl in all of us. Marc.”

Here, we look back at a remarkable career, countless collections that captured our imaginations.


A nod to Diane Arbus's photograph "Twins", the models descended the Daniel Buren-designed escalator set in pairs. “The square and the grid are repeated motifs in Buren’s work," Jacobs recalls, "while the checks relate to Louis Vuitton’s own geometric Damier pattern. Also, Buren’s famous work is in the centre of Paris, the home of Louis Vuitton, which is at the heart of the house today and throughout its history.”


As the white curtain dropped, so did everyone's jaws. With ethereal sounds by Heszékeny, Goblin and William Orbit, this fantasy played out on an all-white carousel. Harking back to a the wonderment of an earlier Paris, Jacobs' pastel and white collection was a rotating spectrum of intricate details, down to the metallic-toed heels and transparent bags. Shown amidst rumours that he would be departing to take the helm at Dior, this was a show-stopping visual shebang – a set-piece that had been recreated for his last and latest SS14 collection.


Making an appearance in Marc Jacobs' final collection, the original fountain centrepiece from his FW10 show was right at home when he showed in the courtyard of the Louvre, where he arguably designed his most romantic collection to date. The return of the womanly silhouette established itself in the slim lines of a 40s film siren. The handbags were petite; the black coats were long and cinched at the waist – a conservative romance that was engulfed by a pristine aural backing of "Et Dieu Créa La Femme: And God Created Woman" by Paul Misraki.


Gilded elevator doors flanked by bell boys opened to reveal a supermodel-studded cast of Naomi Campbell, Amber Valetta, Carolyn Murphy and Maria Carla Boscono – the ultimate company to send out a fetish-themed collection with fervour. This was topped off, of course, by one Kate Moss, who ended her three year runway hiatus by closing the show, cigarette in hand. Soundtracked by Philip Glass, the patent leather corsets and thigh-high stockings sent shivers through the crowd.


The hotel theme continued for FW13. Coming out of one of 50 doors, the pared down looks recalled a dishevelled Bates Motel resident, topped with jet-black coiffures and smoky eyes. Dressing gowns and lace offset a blue patterned wallpaper, set to the piano parades of composer Alexandre Desplat. Songs like "Motherhood", "River", and "Circles" rounded out the chic darkness that saw this comfortable collection flourish behind closed doors.


The casual minimalism for Marc Jacobs' SS99 show was bulked up with a motorcycle helmet and green pantsuit worn by Gisele Bundchen, and most present in the beige velvet tank and pants propelled into the foray. At the height of 90s minimalism, Jacobs sent Vuitton into the noughties with a strong following and a sleek line of accessories.


Paying homage to the first designer Jacobs ever worked with – Kansai Yamamoto – a wave of Orientalism splashed over the Louis Vuitton catwalk (literally, a cat walk – complete with three watchful tigers set at the runway's mouth). LV monograms were patched into lace skirts and kimono-like dress coats sashayed out to a soundtrack of Wendy Carlos' "Sinfonia to Cantata #29".


Black lace surgeon masks and nurse hats accompanied the white coated cast that slid down the runway in what was one of the most exciting Vuitton collections. The kinky parade – influenced by the nurse paintings of artist Richard Prince – was set to a special Daft Punk commission and backdropped by a starry night sky.


Poodle coifs and high skirts gave the 40s a maximalist update, thrilling in that it was shown smack dab during the stock market meltdown of 2008. But these poised women were oblivious with their obi-cinched waists and tassled pouches. Jacobs described it as "Little Parisian princess", with that not-so-subtle hint of African pizazz backed by the sounds of Edith Piaf.


Towa Tei's "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" backed Magdalena Frackowiak's bold entrance, who walked out baring all behind a veil of lace. Citing "all those great French muses of the late 80s" (read: Marie Seznec, Victoire de Castellane, and the inimitable Inès de la Fressange), Marc Jacobs sexed up this collection for a fete of frivolity.


Vermeer and the Dutch masters of yore were at hand in the Flemish berets perched upon the heads of the "Girls with the Monogrammed Handbag". The metallic skirts and high-necked sweaters played second fiddle to the handbag, which was the return of the signature LV monogram. The monogram sparked the extraordinary trend of logomania, spreading like wildfire to competitors and responsible for many an "it" bag. The culture of Vuitton lives on because of Marc's clever perforation of its logo and the imaginative collections he has gifted us over sixteen stupendous years.