The year 2003 saw the commencement of the association between Louis Vuitton and Takashi Murakami: We all have in mind the extraordinary reinterpretation of the classics of the brand. Six years later, the collaboration continues and has since become multifaceted. It seemed important to me to revisit this story to identify the key elements that show how a luxury brand is built steadily over time.
The 2003 collection had three essential characteristics:
- The brand agreed to an interpretation of its logo in colour (contrary to all marketing precepts)... temporarily abandoning the traditional Monogram canvas, and by doing so aroused the desire of the client who entered the shop attracted by these bags overflowing with colour – to leave, very often, with one of the classic bags. The clients' capacity for transgression often has its limits, but the role of the brand is to make it possible.
- The brand called in a contemporary Japanese artist, directly entering in contact with its No. 1 market, Japan, by doing so. Further on we see how this has evolved in subsequent partnerships between Murakami and Vuitton.
- A true innovation was in the making: the encounter, THEN the building of the relationship between an artist and a contemporary luxury brand. Of course, Louis Vuitton had previously worked with Stephen Sprouse in 2001 (the Tag bag), but for the first time an Art Director (Marc Jacobs) relied on a designer whose creative universe fitted into that of the brand. In this sense Marc Jacobs really played his role well.
The alliance continued in the usual way with the "Monogram Cerises" collection in 2005, then again in 2008 with the "Monogramouflage", a camouflage print on the Monogram. However, this last collection assumed a new form of collaboration, which in itself is also a real innovation. Late 2007, during an exhibition of Takashi Murakami's work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Louis Vuitton installed a temporary boutique of 80 m2 IN the museum and sold there a limited edition of bags designed by ... Murakami, the " LV Hands Neverfull" collection.
In April 2008 an almost similar event took place at the Brooklyn Museum: fake "touts" offered the new collection outside the museum where the Murakami retrospective was being held. Thus the encounter between art, the artist, and the brand reached its culmination by being conducted in a place - the museum - where exhibition of paintings and sale of products were intermingled.
Here is a television program that traces this event.
The collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Murakami has since taken on another dimension.
In 2003, to accompany the creation of the first collection, Takashi Murakami created a video called "Superflat Monogram" in which a little Japanese girl meets Puti Panda, one of Murakami's characters (who already exised in his work exhibited in 2007): she enters the world of Louis Vuitton, living a real reinterpretation of "Alice in Wonderland".
The intermingling of the world of the artist, the world of the brand and wonderful imagination that is at the heart of any luxury brand, was total.
This year Takashi Murakami, to celebrate 6 years of collaboration with the brand, created a new video "Superflat First Love" where, in a Manga universe, a young Japanese girl meets Gaston Vuitton through a magical chest that allows one to travel through time.
Once again the artist creates the encounter between the story (of the brand), the marvellous (the magic chest, a symbol found in many stories), the brand (with its iconic chest) and his own universe (Puti Panda and Monograms in colour) ...
The outcome (temporary?) of this saga: The character, Puti Panda – wearing the characteristic Vuitton logo on its ears - is on sale in Vuitton stores in the form of cuddly toys and key-rings.
We should admire the force and coherence of this ensemble: where any other luxury brand would merely have asked an artist to create a range of products, Louis Vuitton creates a universe ... and prolongs it in the long term. We should remember that luxury is time. Hats off!