Louis Vuitton thinks big with the Yayoi Kusama collaboration – WWD

Louis Vuitton goes dowry – globally.

In its largest collaboration with an artist to date, the luxury giant is rolling out ready-to-wear, leather goods, accessories and even fragrances made in collaboration with Yayoi Kusama, as well as dedicated campaigns and a multitude of highly publicized activations. .

Steven Meisel’s images of Gisele Bündchen, Liya Kebede, Devon Aoki, Christy Turlington, Anok Yai and other famous models are released on December 26 in Japanese fashion magazines. The first products will be released on January 1 in Japan and China, considered a pre-launch, and should be in all 460 Louis Vuitton stores around the world on January 6.

Delphine Arnault, who as Vuitton’s executive vice president oversees all of its product-related activities, described the collaboration as a meeting between two like-minded design studios and workshops obsessed with perfection of concept, design and design. execution and craftsmanship.

In an interview at Vuitton headquarters in Paris, with its sweeping views of the Seine, Arnault said the project took a year and a half, conceived and realized amid the coronavirus pandemic via Zoom and file-sharing technology. linking the French capital and Tokyo, where the 93-year-old artist is based.

“One of the aspects of his job is happiness, and we thought it would be really refreshing after the pandemic to see the worlds of Vuitton and the world of Kusama again,” she said, hinting at a first. successful collaboration in 2012. .

Vuitton began teasing the latest hookup last May, when Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of the brand’s women’s collections, accessorized some of its Cruise 2023 outfits with polka-dot handbags.

A Louis Vuitton sandal with metallic studs.

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

The pace has accelerated in recent weeks. A takeover of Tokyo involved landmarks such as Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple, and Tokyo Station with a mix of physical installations and augmented reality activations.

“The reaction has been incredible,” enthused Arnault.

Indeed, an Instagram post from the Vuitton anamorphic billboard set up in Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku district has racked up more than 10 million views. It depicts Kusama looking out of a Vuitton trunk decorated with animated fruit friends.

Meanwhile, other posts on Instagram, where Vuitton has more than 50 million followers, showed Kusama handing spotted water bottles to Dutch model Rianne Van Rompaey, one of the faces of the campaign, who also appears to be standing above the artist’s bright red signature. bob hairstyle.

Arnault hinted at more citywide takeovers in Paris, London and New York next year. “It’s really important to communicate globally, but also to work locally,” she said, promising “a few surprises” in different parts of each city, as well as pop-ups, pop-ins, features of augmented reality and even a gaming application.

A second delivery of products is scheduled for March 31, which will be supported by another, still secret, advertising campaign.

Kusama is best known for her obsession with polka dots, which she has been painting since the age of 10 and applying to canvases, tree trunks, entire rooms and even people. She has also made collages, soft sculptures and performance art.

Gisele

Gisele

Courtesy

Known for her exacting approach – every point of her “infinite” paintings is painstakingly placed – Kusama is a prolific artist who has participated in the conceptual, feminist, minimalist, surrealist, pop and abstract art movements since her first appearance on the scene. in the 1950s.

Arnault hailed Kusama as one of the most famous female artists working today and one of the most important artists to emerge from Japan.

“It’s a very inclusive art,” she says. “It speaks to everyone – it can speak to a child; it can speak to an intellectual. It’s not too difficult to understand, although it is very complex.

Huge queues form whenever museums display one of Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Rooms,” which allow viewers to gaze at endless reflections of colored lights.

Arnault marveled that Kusama’s art was so prescient of today’s appetite for immersive experiences and works that are so irresistibly Instagrammable and shareable.

The Vuitton collaboration encompasses Kusama’s “infinity dots” and metallic dots, first introduced in 1966, as well as floral and pumpkin designs.

A silk square printed with “infinity dots” and a pumpkin.

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Arnault released a Capucine leather bag, one of the most expensive pieces in the range at 8,800 euros, and a small Alma canvas bag, each covered in colorful but irregular polka dots.

“We have a sense of perfection, of detail, of creativity, of innovation, and we felt that Ms. Kusama’s studio spoke the same language,” Arnault explained, a smile forming on his face. “She is obsessed with the point. And we’re obsessed with the monogram.

Vuitton’s repetitive design, with the LV initials interspersed with stylized flowers, debuted on trunks in 1896 and became one of its most powerful and popular brand signifiers.

Arnault explained that Vuitton’s teams were tasked with replicating the dots that Kusama had once painted by hand on a trunk. After countless tries, they achieved the desired effect: the dots seem to float on the leatherwork, shimmering here and there as if Kusama had just lifted his brush from each circle, the paint still wet.

Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama Keepall bag with hand painted polka dot print.

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

“Everything was done with extreme precision,” she said. “What’s amazing about working with artists is that they really push the limits… It makes us even better and also pushes our limits.”

She gestured to a picture on the wall of a Vuitton top-handle handbag by architect Frank Gehry, one of six “iconoclasts” tapped for a 2014 collaboration.

“There’s not a single straight line on this bag, so for the workshop it was a super big challenge,” she recalls.

Arnault described a massive company-wide effort to deliver Project Kusama, which involved all product departments and teams from supply chain, industry, design, marketing, retail, communications and visual merchandising. Kusama’s dots will even invade the brand’s dot-com business, with a temporary makeover planned for its online store.

Artistic collaborations date back more than a century at Vuitton, all the way back to founder Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s grandson, who enlisted artists and designers such as Pierre-Emile Legrain and Camille Cless-Brothier for products and designs. Showcases from the 20s and 30s.

The pace picked up considerably under the Marc Jacobs era from 1997 to 2013, when he invited Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince – and Kusama – to collaborate on capsule collections. In 2013, the hit collaboration Murakami – which featured colored versions of the monogram, some interspersed with eyeballs – reportedly generated a tenth of the brand’s revenue that year.

When Kusama first met Jacobs, hosting him at her Tokyo studio in 2006, she presented the designer with a Vuitton Ellipse bag, which she had painted the monogram canvas with polka dots. He invited her to collaborate on a line of clothing and accessories in 2012, some decorated with his tentacle-like “nerves” pattern.

In recent years, Vuitton has also collaborated with Sol LeWitt and Jeff Koons, also inviting guests of emerging and established contemporary artists to participate in its Artycapucines project each year.

Vuitton’s “cultural dimension” reached a new height with the opening in 2014 of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a private museum that exhibited works by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Olafur Eliasson, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman and Egon Shiele.

More recently, Vuitton was the only luxury brand to set up a stand at the inaugural edition of the Paris+ by Art Basel fair to highlight its longstanding relationship with artists.

“I think Vuitton really has a legitimacy to do collaborations with artists, and it’s the most culturally connected brand,” Arnault said, calling them a win-win.

While declining to discuss numbers, Arnault said his collections made with artists were “extremely successful” commercially. On the other hand, artists “want to do it because it gives them access to another audience”.

“This collaboration is going to be in all our windows, it’s going to be in our advertisements so it exposes their art to people who wouldn’t necessarily have gone to a museum,” she explained.

Arnault noted that all of Vuitton’s artistic collaborations eventually become highly collectible, often generating greater value in the resale market. They attract art collectors and patrons who may not know the artists but are intrigued to find out more, she added.

For true art lovers or partygoers, 40 rigid champagne trunks customized by Kusama studios are up for grabs at 400,000 euros each.

The print campaign, with its cast of models from different generations, is meant to reflect that Kusama’s art appeals to everyone. Its tagline, “Create Infinity”, nods to a key subject in Kusama’s work, as well as Vuitton’s travel roots, dream storytelling and seemingly endless trajectory of growth. .

The visuals will also appear in the form of billboards, street furniture, 3D screens and banners in cities including Paris; London; Munich; Dubai; New York; Los Angeles; Tokyo; Seoul; Taipei, Taiwan; and Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen, China.

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