by Virginia CucchiApr 22, 2022
Today Louis Vuitton is known as one of the largest fashion brands in the world. It is important to remember that the global company’s history began in the 1850s with a trunk. The founder and the brand’s namesake, Louis Vuitton, began his own retail store in 1854 but it was in 1858, when Vuitton introduced his now iconic flat-topped trunks, which were stackable, lightweight and airtight. For the birth bicentenary of Monsieur Vuitton, the global conglomerate LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) invited 200 visionaries to reimagine the trunk. Faye McLeod, Director of Visual Creation of the Maison, commented on the concept saying, “Creativity has always been at the heart of this project, because above all we wanted to pay tribute to the ingenuity and daring of Louis. Through these works, we can admire the creative vision of talents with eclectic profiles, all sensitive to the man that Louis Vuitton was.”
200 New Visions
The winners were announced on August 4, 2021, and are from a multitude of disciplines ranging from art, culture, science, sport, to humanitarian causes. The visionaries were invited to personalise the iconic Louis Vuitton trunk; many of these designs have been gracing the windows of Louis Vuitton stores across the world. The visionaries including the likes of Sou Fujimoto, Abiboo, Arthur Mamou-Mani, Nuru Karim and BTS, started from a metaphorical blank canvas of 50 x 50 x 100 cm. Collating all 200 of these creations for the first time in one place is the exhibition at d'Asnières, the familial home of Vuitton. After a welcome by the Maison de famille, establishing a link with the history of Vuitton, visitors take a psychedelic journey to view the reimagined trunks through the exhibition titled, 200 MALLES 200 VISIONNAIRES: THE EXHIBITION. Artistic Director, Ansel Thompson, spoke about bringing all these objects together saying, “The windows allowed us to reveal every interpretation but by bringing all the trunks that operate today is the magic of this project.”
But why a trunk?
While an LV handbag is a common go-to accessory today, it is important to reflect back at the roots of not only the brand's genesis but its iconic logo. Before diving into the exhibition, let’s look back at Louis Vuitton himself. He announced himself as a fashion packer, with the skills of packing and transporting the opulent dresses, and crinoline wide skirts which were prevalent at the time. Vuitton offered a solution that stood out from the traditional trunk, specifically the flat top. Realising it was more ergonomic and efficient than the prevailing domed lid, he combined the new form of the use of a canvas covered with oil paint to the trunks and the creations within. When other companies began to copy these innovations, Vuitton incorporated complex patterns into his design. However, it was his eldest son Georges-Louis Vuitton who designed the now renowned monogram as an homage to his father, in 1896. It was one of the very first logos of the emerging luxury industry, the birth of an icon, and a signal of a new culture.
The first room acts as a bridge between the past and the present, with a checkerboard carpet housing the “Magic Malle”, equipped with LED screens, honouring the “carte blanche”, or the blank canvas, that the 200 visionaries were assigned. The trunks exhibited in the second space project visitors into the future. Arranged at different heights, the creations are stacked on wooden boxes that will be reused throughout the duration of the travelling exhibition to transport the trunks. This aspect of the exhibition design is also an interesting reference to the purpose of the trunks themselves. Once considered fashion packaging they are now not just fashion items but works of art that require their own packaging. Much like their revolutionary form in the 1850s, the trunks are now stacked on boxes.
The exhibition continues on the ground floor in a dreamscape filled with vibrant colours. If one were to follow the music, they would discover a secret entrance to a room that is stipulated to be an audiophile dream. Greeted by a jukebox trunk created by the British DJ and producer, Benji B, the fully functional trunk loops 200 catchy songs and adds to the visual experience.
The LV200 project is a philanthropic initiative. The artists have donated all of their fees to the charity of their choice from among 15 NGOs working in 13 countries. Following the auction organised by Sotheby's, the profits generated by the sale of 200 trunks and products derived from the LV200 initiative, such as books, have been allotted towards the creation of a student scholarship program. Taken as a whole, the LV200 project will support young artists and other creative talents throughout their studies and careers.
The exhibition takes place at 16 rue Louis Vuitton in Asnières from December 9, 2021 to January 6, 2022 before traveling to New York, Tokyo and London. The traveling exhibition will conclude with an auction organised by Sotheby's in December 2022. The profits of the auction will be donated in its entirety to the scholarship program initiated by Louis Vuitton to help young creators.