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How to celebrate the 200th birthday of a man everyone knows and no one knows

There is one piece of art that has been on display in Faye McLeod’s studio for most of the past decade, representing what she considers her “mantra.”

In another corporate office, such art could be a portrait of an eagle, hovering over the word “perseverance” or a modern black and white typography poster with a phrase like “work hard and be kind to people” .

But in the office of Ms. McLeod, who is Louis Vuitton’s visual image director, the sign consists of a few lines of unpunctuated text in rainbow colors, inspired by the song’s lyrics. “Hypnotize” by Notorious BIG in 1997: “Louis Louis Louis can ‘you see how your world amazes me.

The phrase reminds Ms. McLeod, 49, that “whenever I’m sitting in the studio and we have no idea about something, go to the archives,” she said. “The ideas are still there.

About six months ago, the mantra inspired a new project to celebrate Louis Vuitton’s 200th anniversary: ​​filling the windows of the brand’s 460 stores with trunks designed by 200 people.

The trunks are the legacy of Mr. Vuitton, the pieces on which he founded the company in Paris in 1854. Using a water-repellent canvas material, he designed his trunks with flat tops (as opposed to trunks with topsides). more common rounds, which allowed water to roll around but were not as easily transportable).

His son, Georges Ferréol Vuitton, considerably enlarged the business and created the LV monogram. Today, the brand maintains a rich collection of drawings, advertisements and other historical documents of Georges.

“With Georges, we have so much,” Ms. McLeod said. “But with Louis, we kind of have trunks. This is why we have based a lot of the work around the trunks, because that is what we have in the archives. It was the right thing to do. “

So earlier this year, her team of showcase artists and technical assistants – perhaps best known for flooding stores with Yayoi Kusama’s chickenpox dots and tentacles in 2012 – began to think about a list of people to make or decorate trunks. Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s ever-well-connected menswear art director, was “very, very involved,” said Ansel Thompson, artistic director of the team.

Mr. Thompson and Mrs. McLeod not only wanted traditional visual artists, but an assortment of “visionaries” who could “capture the mind” of the mysterious Mr. Vuitton – such as poets, scientists, explorers and activists, they said. they declared. These people were invited to think of their trunks “like a container: for an object, a dream, a future, a reflection, a desire”. (In the document informing them of the project, the Louis Vuitton team included a copy of the “Louis Louis Louis” image.)

Contributors, which include Drake and Gloria Steinem, as well as LVMH designers like Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones, received boxes with common dimensions but said they could redefine the shape at will. They could paint or sculpt, for example, or use videos, photographs, sound, or augmented reality.

As a result, there are jelly trunks, mini-balloons and polished stainless steel. There are trunks covered with greenery (by Mr. Flower Fantastic) and tapestry (by Qualeasha Wood). There’s a flying trunk – made by a French aeronautical designer and recently tested inside the LV store in Place Vendôme in Paris, Ms McLeod said – and another on skateboard wheels.

At one point, Vuitton asked a mushroomist to turn a trunk into dust and then make mushrooms from the powder, but the collaboration ultimately fell through.

Members of K-pop group BTS covered their trunk in cartoonish scribbles of whales, stripes, arrows, hearts and a large carrot. While the trunks of a few late contributors have yet to be made to the mark, the BTS submission has arrived “very quickly,” Ms. McLeod said. “They obviously knew what they wanted to express.”

Some trunks were more of a collaboration. When fashion’s favorite astrologer, Susan Miller, created an astrological chart for Mr. Vuitton, Ms. McLeod and Mr. Thompson’s team built a diorama of the map using neon-colored planets. They placed the galaxy inside a trunk and pierced peepholes on the outside, painting a night sky on the outside.

Finally, Vuitton will publish a book chronicling the collaboration, exhibit the physical trunks and organize a charity auction with Sotheby’s. For each trunk, Louis Vuitton pledged 10,000 euros (approximately $ 11,800) to charity; contributors were given a list of 15 global arts education nonprofits to choose from to receive their donation.

Until then, images of the trunks will be displayed in Louis Vuitton store windows for 100 days, starting August 4 – the founder’s birthday, the impetus for the whole project.

Another aspect of the project, in New York City, the exterior of the Fifth Avenue store will feature a digital image the size of Mr. Vuitton’s Godzilla, rendered in checkered pixels, with the words “Happy Birthday Louis.”

The image – Mr Vuitton is standing with his hands in his pocket and gazing distant, more reminiscent of a young start-up founder posing in a men’s fashion magazine than a 19th-century trunk – is not based on a real photo. , but it’s not for lack of trying. There isn’t much left of the man behind the most famous name in fashion.

“We only have one image of him,” Mr. Thompson said. “We still wonder what he really looked like. “


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Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds

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