Being the fashion capital that it is, Paris is home to countless fashion exhibitions. Not surprisingly, I visited quite a few. One of them was Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The exhibit focused on the story of two men — Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs — and their respective journeys and legacies with the house of Louis Vuitton.
Trunks For One Trip
To draw parallels between the two men, design-wise, would be a stretch, unlike with Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld or with Jeanne Lanvin and Alber Elbaz. Instead, the two were treated to two separate exhibitions: one dedicated to Vuitton and his legendary trunks, and the other to Jacobs, the resurrector of the iconic brand.
Vuitton was not a couturier, but a craftsman — or in his terms a “packer” — while Jacobs is first and foremost a clothier. But what the show really communicated is their penchant for branding, a skill that is just as, if not more, valuable than being a great designer.
Go Wild In The Country
In Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, author Dana Thomas begins her tale of the birth of luxury with the story of Louis Vuitton. Back in the mid-1850s, Vuitton invented what we see today as an identifiable fashion brand by trademarking his Damier checkered canvas pattern. Today, Jacobs’ job — one he has done extremely successfully — is to keep the trademark visible at all times, while giving it a fresh spin here and there. In Deluxe, he tells Thomas that “Vuitton is a status symbol. It’s not about hiding the logo. It’s about being a bit of a show-off.”
My Favourite Colour Is Shiny
The quote itself sums up what I love and hate about the brand. While I consider Jacobs immensely talented, I would not consider him in the same fashion genius category as some of his contemporaries like Alber Elbaz or Raf Simons. But then again, Jacobs runs the most profitable fashion house in the world and he does so by being — for the lack of a better term — a marketing game-changer.
My Favourite Colour Is Shiny
Like Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs himself is a brand in his own right. He surrounds himself with the right people. He collaborates with the right people. Take, for example, his collaborations with Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami. What happens when your loyal costumers have already accumulated every iconic Louis Vuitton bag? Turn things on its head. Do something provocative and spark a whole new level of “want.” (I suppose that was also Georges Vuitton’s logic when he trademarked the LV logo shortly after his father’s death.)
Put On Your Sunday Clothes
It’s really what every Louis Vuitton collection in the last ten years has been all about: the spectacle. As was with this exhibition. It certainly didn’t have the emotional pull of the Cristobal Balenciaga: Fashion Collector and Comme des Garçons: White Drama shows I saw a couple of days later, but it made me look at Jacobs in a new (shinier) light, as a global purveyor of mass-produced luxury. That is the parallel between the two designers.
Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs runs until September 16, 2012 at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.