All images owned by Rosemary Brodhurst-Hooper
The exhibition starts off by delving into Louis Vuitton’s history – namely their rich heritage as a luggage maker for the wealthy – which was founded in 1854. The ‘LV’ monogram is synonymous with craftsmanship, endurance and travelling in style to this day and featured heavily in Louis Vuitton accessories, even woven into the lace used to make their ready-to-wear collections.
Trunks, luggage cases and even the Louis Vuitton bed-in-a-box were on display, after being caringly archived from the beginnings of Louis Vuitton. With all the pomp and circumstance of Louis Vuitton’s modern advertising campaigns, celebrity endorsements, logos and theatrical fashion shows it was refreshing to see such a mass of work on display which all derived from need and function when travelling.
When Louis Vuitton died in 1892 the business was passed along to his son George, who kept Louis Vuitton’s core values of craft and longevity at the brands heart.
Louis Vuitton continued to grow into the 20th Century, introducing their range of women’s accessories, adding further desirability to their name.
After the merger with Moet & Hennessy in 1989 Louis Vuitton went onto to see further growth and profit, which resulted in the hiring of Marc Jacobs in 1997. Jacobs was known for his grunge-inspired collections, not usually aligned to the Louis Vuitton aesthetic. Marc Jacobs role as Artistic Director saw him heading up Louis Vuitton’s first ever ready-to-wear collections for men and women.
Marc Jacobs’ input into the Louis Vuitton business model has been phenomenal, changing the way LV is seen. The second floor of the exhibit concentrates on Jacobs time at LV, walking through his process and achievements. The first room is a visual feast of moving and still imagery and an interactive and invasive (but in a good way) collection of inspiration, a physical sketchbook of design stimulus. Jacobs earlier influences looked towards punk, with rebellious influence, but with time it has evolved into a much more varied array. Unexpectedly Bette Midler looks to be a great influence to Jacobs!
Although the second phase of the Louis Vuitton brand was awarded a whole floor to showcase their evolution, I did expect to see much more clothing on show. The key display for me showed up-lit mannequins wearing aggressive silver masks and sharp, feathered mohawks all standing uniformly in a circle, sporting looks from the past 15 years. It was great to get up close and personal with some of the garments and to be able to see intricate and sophisticated detail and embellishment.
Of course, Marc Jacobs tenure has not been without humour, provocation and controversy with the exhibition ending with the Louis Vuitton peepshow – giving visitors tiny peep-holes to naughtily view obscured fashion shows of the past. The ‘Louis’ nurses used faceless ambiguity to model emergency inspired waterproof jackets, melding pirates (mouth scarves), the functionality of uniform and finally high price luxury leather goods.