by Meghna MehtaMay 22, 2019
Since the late 19th century, Louis Vuitton has sought inspirations from Japan. From the ‘mon’ - family crest - inspiration of the Monogram canvas, to many renowned Japanese users such as political leaders Goto Shojiro and Taisuke Itagaki, the house has always maintained strong ties with Japan, its people and its culture.
The opening of the first Louis Vuitton store on Japanese soil in 1978 in the Tokyo district of Kioicho allowed the monogram to permeate the collective conscience of local artistic minds. From the very foundation of the organisation, the connection between Louis Vuitton and Japan has been driven by a common fascination – two worlds capable of combining a respect for tradition with a strong desire for modernity.
Continuing this strong collaboration, Louis Vuitton opened its store Louis Vuitton Maison Osaka Midosuji in Osaka, Japan, on February 1, 2020. The store is an imaginative result of a close collaboration between architects Jun Aoki and Peter Marino, who both share a long-standing relationship with the French fashion house. The new four-floor store reflects Osaka’s heritage as Japan’s most important port and highlights the city’s growing role as an international travel hub.
Architect Jun Aoki has worked on a number of landmark Louis Vuitton stores in Japan and around the world, and also designed the Louis Vuitton New York’s Fifth Avenue Maison. The design of the building drew on Osaka’s history as a sea-faring city, where Aoki imagined a light and airy white structure inspired by the traditional Higaki-Kaisen cargo ship and its billowing sails. The purity of the façade has further been reinforced by the use of metal fretwork motifs at ground level, giving the impression of a ship floating on water. The design of the façade allows for optimal use of natural light by illuminating the different levels. The store attempts to breathe the city’s energy, while offering clients a sense of calm and respite.
As a juxtaposition to the architecture of the Maison, itself a poetic homage to the minimalism of Japanese craftsmanship, windows designed in collaboration with artist Kenta Cobayashi bring a celebration of swirling, lucid colours to the building and its vicinity. A photographer himself, he has designed liquid crystal distortions modelled into a bespoke sculpture that ribbons across the store’s windows. These windows almost blur the lines between digital fantasy and reality, a speciality of Cobayashi’s imagery, that further acknowledges Japan as a hub of technology.
In the interiors, architect Peter Marino has followed similar inspirations, connecting the store’s four floors to both the maritime feel of the building and to its connection with Japanese traditional culture. In spaces dedicated to a complete offering of the different universes and collections, wooden floors give the impression of decks, with wood-clad pillars and metal ceilings reminiscent of the spirit of a grand yacht embarking on an exciting adventure.
Traditional Japanese materials such as woodwork and origami washi paper feature throughout the interior spaces. The vast areas have been designed to create varying volumes, from spectacular halls to more intimate corners and lounges. The ground floor is dedicated to women’s accessories, while the mezzanine floor houses luggage and the Art of Travel. A complete offering of women’s ready-to-wear and accessories by Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of women’s collections, occupies the third floor, while the fourth floor is home to Louis Vuitton men’s artistic director Virgil Abloh’s complete offering.
Throughout the Maison, Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades collection of designer travel and home related objects bring colourful creativity to the forefront. On permanent offer, they are placed to emphasise or contrast with the architecture, hanging down from the generous heights of the store’s floor.
Historical Louis Vuitton archival objects and unparalleled artisanal savoir-faire provides clients with an entirely unique private shopping experience surrounded by works of art. In a silent discussion between the past and the present, the original Louis Vuitton trunks sit alongside nearly 20 contemporary artworks selected or commissioned by Peter Marino. Offering a counterpoint to the cool lines of the building, artworks by Vik Muniz, Polly Apfelbaum, Kimiko Fujimura, Nicola de Maria, and Ida Tursic & Wilfried Mille present abstract bursts of colour or depict natural landscapes throughout the four floors. A unique work by Gregor Hildebrandt Osaka Schwimmbad (Anne) , composed of cut vinyl records, wood, canvas and acrylic reflects Osaka’s relationship with its cherished bay.
The new store also saw the opening of the very first Louis Vuitton café in collaboration with chef Yosuke Suga. Le Café V sits atop the store building, which also hides the entrance to Suga’s exclusive restaurant housed within the Maison.