Saturday, 2 June 2012

Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs - Exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs

It appears fashion exhibits become increasingly popular and attract more and more visitors. A trend that has received yet another boost by "Alexander McQueen - Savage Beauty", which was displayed at the MET in 2011, but surely reflects also the zeitgeist of people acknowledging fashion as a mean of expression and  significant component of pop culture.
Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, which frequently hosts fashion related exhibitions, is currently showing "Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs" from the 9th of March until the 16th of September 2012.

A comparison - or should I say confrontation - of two individuals, who at very different epochs could establish themselves as designers and innovators who contributed to the world of fashion and who helped build up the brand Louis Vuitton at each of their eras and both in their own right.
Could Louis Vuitton (1821 - 1892), founder of his namesake company, which has grown to become one of the globally best known fashion brands and integral part of the world's biggest fashion & luxury conglomerate LVMH have dreamt of the role his company and name would still play in today's fashion circus? What do those two men have in  common? Where lie their differences? Which role did they play for the brand Louis Vuitton? And how have those two men contributed to Louis Vuitton still being significant today?
These are just a few questions, this exhibit seeks to elaborate.

One man growing up amidst the exciting times of industrial revolution, witnessing increasing urbanization, technical inventions, profound changes in the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times.
A contemporary of Gustave Eiffel, famous architect who built the Tour Eiffel for the Exposition Universelle in 1889 and Charles Frederic Worth, the Englishman who historically has been credited as founder of Haute Couture and the first big Parisian fashion house in the 19th century.
Louis Vuitton, a craftsman with a vision and a great business instinct, who offered his product range - customized luggage for fashion- to the affluent bourgeoisie of Paris. His product innovations included compartmentalized suitcases, a folding bed that could be transported in a suitcase as well as his probably most important invention: a water- and airproof coat, which made his suitcases extremely durable and therefore highly requested by the wealthy social class who could afford to travel. As Louis Vuitton was very far sighted, he patented several of his inventions in order to be able to maintain his position as an innovator and market leader and to be able to avoid his competitors from copying his products.
After his death in 1892, his son George took over the family business, continued with its international expansion and amongst other things introduced the world renown, highly coveted (and most counterfeited)  LV- signet in 1896.


On the other side, Marc Jacobs who has been holding the creative reign at Louis Vuitton for 15 years. The American designer, who in 1984 graduated from Parson's School of Design in New York City, who worked several years for Perry Ellis, where he was dismissed after his controversially received (yet, up until today famed) collection "Grunge" in 1993. Marc Jacobs - together with his business partner Robert Duffy - returned to his namesake brand, which only took off after Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH agreed to finance Marc Jacob's eponymous brand and helped opening his first store on Mercer Street in NYC after he signed a contract to design for one of the big brands of his group.

In January 1997, Marc Jacobs took over the position of creative director at Louis Vuitton, a brand, which despite its great success with bags and leather goods up until then did not even have a ready-to-wear line. What followed was a victory parade of RTW collections and a number of design collaborations with the likes of Stephen Sprousse, Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami, which helped to define the image of Louis Vuitton and turn the brand from a classic French brand for bags and luggage into one the world's most widespread, well-known and profitable luxury fashion brands.

In this exhibition, two worlds collide - the best way to wrap it up in a few words is to say it encompasses snapshots in the history of a brand throughout two world-changing eras (industrialization on the one hand side and globalization on the other). Each of those men accompanied and led the brand Louis Vuitton forward as a creator and innovator, who embraced the challenges of his time.
Thankfully each of the sections dedicated to one of its subjects is located on a different floor. The stairs escalating from the Louis Vuitton section to the Marc Jacobs one hardly suffice for the mental switch one has to flip in order to readjust ones brain from the lifestyle of the 19th century to the challenges of the 21st century.
(The Marc Jacobs section is started with Marc's World, where the spectator gets a peek into the designer's colorful world of inspiration through numerous film clippings displayed on computer screens ranging from J.S. Bach to Spongebob, a nude Vivien Westwood, Liz Taylor and many more...).

An exhibition definitely worth visiting, however, the cohesion of the two sections dedicated to each of the designers are few and are mostly to be found in the way, both Vuitton and Jacobs understood and worked the zeitgeist and requirements of their customers for novelty and lifestyle throughout their challenging times.


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