Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama brings polka-dotted frenzy to flagship stores

A decade after the brand’s first venture with the Japanese artist, this new collaboration is being promoted by retail activations in Paris, London, New York, and Tokyo.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jan 20, 2023

Rolling back the years with a second headline-grabbing collaboration, global fashion house Louis Vuitton is partnering with contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama on a new capsule collection. A decade after the first joint effort between the two parties, this release was teased towards the end of the previous year, with ongoing promotional initiatives that are now taking place on the ground to boost the campaign’s visibility. Consisting of a series of activations spanning storefront retail design, interior transformations, and sculptural activations at Louis Vuitton stores the world over, the venture is a vibrant foray into the artist’s mind and body of work, reinterpreting signature elements of her aesthetic in the brand’s style. Vitalising the façade designs of Louis Vuitton flagship stores with explosions of polka dots as well as life-sized and larger-than-life-sized figures of Kusama herself, the initiative has graced the cities of Paris, New York, Tokyo, Chengdu, and London.

  • A massive inflatable figure of Kusama looms over the Louis Vuitton flagship store in Paris | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    A massive inflatable figure of Kusama looms over the Louis Vuitton flagship store in Paris Image: Raphael Metivet
  • The retail activations have transformed stores across the world, from Paris and London, to New York, Tokyo, and Chengdu | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The retail activations have transformed stores across the world, from Paris and London to New York, Tokyo, and Chengdu Image: Raphael Metivet
  • The polka-dotted façade of Louis Vuitton's flagship store in Paris | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The polka-dotted façade of Louis Vuitton's flagship store in Paris Image: Sachi Gupta

Billed with the tagline “Creating Infinity,” the new collection builds on Kusama’s previous collaboration with the French brand back in 2012—back when it was led by American designer Marc Jacobs—embedding her artistic vision into the makeup of signature models from the brand’s catalogue as well as new wares crafted specifically for this collaboration. First teased back at the Cruise 2023 fashion show at the Louis Kahn-designed Salk Institute in Chicago, the new collection was announced to the world through a selection of bags showcased by Nicolas Ghesquière, the brand’s Artistic Director of Women’s Collections. Besides its major implications for both the brand’s global appeal and its relationship with the Japanese artist, who is among the most celebrated practitioners of her time, the initiative also spans multiple disciplines, adopting a spatial dimension through the retail activations that are accompanying its release. In effect, this venture continues the brand’s storied history of partnering with acclaimed artists to envision new attitudes towards luxury design.

Video of the animatronic figure of Kusama in Paris Video: Raphael Metivet

Ten years on from their first collaboration, Kusama and Louis Vuitton’s partnership has taken form in an eclectic series of apparel and bags, with a strong focus on the artist’s everlasting fascination with polka dots. Replicating this distinctive motif in her work by superimposing them on Louis Vuitton’s own design language and brand sigil, the collection captures the essence and textures of Kusama’s brushstrokes, emulating the marks created by her own hands. The painted dots have been embossed onto surfaces of leather and coated canvas through a complex serigraphy technique, with gradations of both primary and secondary colours as well as monochrome. Other patterns seen throughout the collection include the artist’s famous ‘Infinity Dots’ and ‘Metal Dots,’ as well as the ‘Psychedelic Flower,’ a play on the floral flourishes that have been a mainstay of her style. While the first batch from the collection was released from January 1-6 across the world, the follow-up will become available at Louis Vuitton stores from March 31.

  • The new collection features motifs seen throughout Kusama’s work, including her polka dots and metal dots | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The new collection features motifs seen throughout Kusama’s work, including her polka dots and metal dots Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
  • The dots have been superimposed on leather and coated canvas | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The dots have been superimposed on leather and coated canvas Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

As one of the foremost artists of her time and a living legend whose works continue to inspire many all over the globe, Yayoi Kusama’s versatile practice spans the realms of paintings, sculpture, performance art, graphic design, illustration, video, and fashion among other disciplines. Her works, deeply personal, thought-provoking, and evocative, are rooted in her own perception of the world, employing various recurring motifs such as her famous polka dots, orbs, pumpkins, and flowers, all depicting autobiographical and psychological themes as well as higher concepts such as that of ‘infinity,’ ‘self-obliteration,’ or ‘obsession.’ Today Kusama is often regarded among Japan’s most important artists, with almost none who can equal her global renown.

The collection is currently on view at select Louis Vuitton storefronts across the globe | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
The collection is currently on view at select Louis Vuitton storefronts across the globe Image: Sachi Gupta

In celebrating their partnership with the artist, Louis Vuitton’s storefront transformations include a massive inflatable likeness of Kusama looming over their flagship Champs-Élysées store in France’s capital. Besides this, the century-old art deco building above the store has faces riddled with her distinctive polka dots while the store’s road-facing display also features animatronic statues of her painting the space’s windows. London’s Harrods department store is home to another such activation, alongside a pop-up venue in Harajuku, Tokyo, where black and yellow polka dots have overtaken the spatial environment.

  • The collection was first revealed at the Cruise 2023 Fashion show by Nicolas Ghesquière, the brand’s Artistic Director of Women’s Collections | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The collection was first revealed at the Cruise 2023 Fashion show by Nicolas Ghesquière, the brand’s Artistic Director of Women’s Collections Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
  • The partnership continues the brand’s history of working with artists and designers for capsule collections | Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
    The partnership continues the brand’s history of working with artists and designers for capsule collections Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

On the other side of the pond, New York is home to two new pop-up locations that have been activated in a similar vein. The first, located in the city’s Meatpacking District, continues the black and yellow polka dot theme with its interior, having opened on January 6 to coincide with the collection’s drop. A second pop-up in its Soho neighbourhood adopts a similar premise, albeit, realised in a white-painted store that uses colours of red, blue, yellow, and green to make it adhere to Kusama’s aesthetic. Similar transformations have also occurred throughout the world, signifying the brand’s universal reach and appeal, augmented by this collaboration with one of the world’s most lauded and inimitable artistic minds.

The retail activation in Chengdu Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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