PARIS, France — In 1854, at number 4 Rue des Capucines near the Place Vendôme in Paris, Louis Vuitton launched his luggage business, advancing the travel trunks of the time — which were, then, made with rounded tops to allow water runoff — by creating stackable trunks in treated waterproof canvas. In his memory, his son Georges Vuitton created and patented the now-iconic ‘LV’ monogram, featuring his father’s initials, decorated with quatrefoils and four-petal flowers. Since then, Louis Vuitton the company has gone through several transformations under the ownership of luxury conglomerate LVMH. But the LV monogram has endured over the years as the symbol of what is now one of the world’s most widely recognised brands.
To mark the 160th anniversary of the house’s founding, Louis Vuitton's executive vice president Delphine Arnault, daughter of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, and artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière initiated a project, dubbed ‘Celebrating Monogram,’ inviting six of the world’s design pioneers (the ‘iconoclasts’) to interpret the LV monogram (the ‘icon’) for a new series of bags.
“The Monogram is the timeless icon of the Maison Louis Vuitton. It has lived through the brand’s countless evolutions, never losing its essence. The leading testament to the fashion house’s success, it was only natural that we should pay homage to it,” said Delphine Arnault.
The six selected designers include Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel and Fendi; architect Frank Gehry, whose Fondation Louis Vuitton centre opens next month in the suburbs of Paris; performance artist Cindy Sherman; industrial and product designer (and new Apple hire) Marc Newson; shoe designer Christian Louboutin; and fashion’s original contrarian, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. For Harper’s Bazaar’s upcoming October issue, Karl Lagerfeld shot each of the iconoclasts and their finished products, creating images which BoF can exclusively reveal today.
The project echoes a similar initiative undertaken in 1996 for Louis Vuitton’s centenarian celebration. Back then, fashion designers Azzedine Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Romeo Gigli, Helmut Lang, Isaac Mizrahi, Sybilla and Vivienne Westwood all contributed special designs. This time around, Delphine Arnault and Ghesquière broadened the scope of the initiative to include collaborators from art, architecture, and industrial design, as well as fashion. “When we talked with Nicolas Ghesquière about the extraordinary talents we would like to approach we simply went to those who are among the best in their fields,” said Delphine Arnault. “They are extraordinary artists; I could even say they are the greatest designers in the world.”
From Louboutin’s ‘Classic Caddy,’ accented with the same scarlet that adorns the soles of each pair of his shoes, to Rei Kawakubo’s ‘Bag With Holes,’ a burned out tote that reveals the bag’s inner lining, each creation is playfully distinguished by the unique signature of its creator.