In 1854, Louis Vuitton founded his House. In 1896 his son, Georges Vuitton, created The Monogram in honour of his late father. An icon was born. The Monogram was revolutionary when it appeared. This most particular and personal of signatures was instantly transformed into a universal symbol of modernity in the hands of Georges Vuitton: it is one of the first exercises in elevated branding and a defining sign of a global culture to come. In 1965 Gaston-Louis Vuitton, recounted how his father, Georges, had created the motifs on The Monogram canvas: ‘First of all, the initials of the company – LV – are interlaced in such a way as to remain perfectly legible. Then a diamond. To give a specific character to the shape, he made the sides concave with a four-petal flower in the centre. Then the extension of this flower in a positive image. Finally, a circle containing a flower with four rounded petals.’
The Monogram is now recognised globally as a defining signature, both literally and metaphorically, of the House of Louis Vuitton. As it has travelled through time, certain of its features and meanings remain the same. Blurring the boundaries between craftsmanship, art and design, Louis Vuitton has repeatedly embraced the notions of innovation, collaboration and daring throughout The Monogram’s history.
It is within this context that Louis Vuitton’s ‘Celebrating Monogram’ project appears this year. It is a collection of works that shows the distinctly personal side of the Monogram; re-presenting something we think we all know in an extraordinary, individual and idiosyncratic way. Six creative iconoclasts – the best in their individual fields – who blur the lines between fashion, art, architecture and product design, have been given carte blanche to dictate and make whatever they see fit in the patterned canvas.
Echoing the special Louis Vuitton centenary collection of 1996 – where Azzedine Alaia, Manolo Blahnik, Romeo Gigli, Helmut Lang, Isaac Mizrahi, Sybilla and Vivienne Westwood contributed individual and distinct designs – for 2014’s collection, the participants have progressed even further. Here, Christian Louboutin, Cindy Sherman, Frank Gehry, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Newson and Rei Kawakubo radically, personally and playfully realise an unparalleled collection.
In many ways it means The Monogram has come full circle: looking at its handcrafted roots once more, its direct connection to a person, its daring and genre defying audacity and, above all, its journey into the future for Louis Vuitton. This is a collection that is both universal and personal, and in the cherished traditions of the house, once again defies expectations.
TWISTED BOX – FRANK GEHRY
Renowned for his designs on a grand scale – the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Vitra Design Museum near Basel, among many others – architect Frank Gehry applies his avant-garde mastery to the construction of this sculptural bijou of a bag in Monogram canvas. For all its delicacy, the Twisted Box was the most technically challenging piece of the entire “Celebrating Monogram” collection, owing to the combination of rigid lines – typical of iconic Vuitton trunk – and the graceful curves that make the bag such a pleasure to wear. A press of the golden-brass clasp reveals a surprising blue lambskin interior, embossed with a Monogram pattern hand-drawn by Frank Gehry.
PUNCHING TRUNK – KARL LAGERFELD
Karl Lagerfeld possesses an unerring knack for capturing the air du temps and distilling it into objects of desire. In celebration of Vuitton’s iconic Monogram canvas, the master imagined an extravagant set of luggage and accessories for devotees of the “sweet science.” His Boxing Trunk is fitted with a signature punching bag and stand, while a separate suitcase, also in Monogram, holds boxing gloves and a mat. With its capacious interior and removable shelving, the trunk can also serve as a chic travel closet. Heritage details – leather corners, tags, embossing – combine with vintage cowhide trim and aged brass hardware for an exceptional collector’s piece that is both timeless and of-the-moment. The Punching Trunk is produced in a limited edition of 25.
SHOPPING TROLLEY – CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN
What happens when Christian Louboutin applies his glamorous aesthetic to the humble French market cart? Combining iconic Monogram canvas with Vuitton heritage codes and his own signature embellishments, he has created this spectacularly seductive Shopping Trolley. It abounds with delightful details and allusions, from the rounded Toron handles and red calf-hair back panel, to the brass corners inspired by House trunks and the metal Siamoise ornament that is “so Louboutin.” Inside the Trolley’s studded front pocket, a red-calf and Monogram Lace clutch displays a graphic LV logo, echoed on the leather luggage tag.
FLEECE PACK – MARC NEWSON
Acclaimed as the most influential industrial designer of his generation, Marc Newson’s work ranges from concept jets to jewellery. When he accepted the invitation to join “Celebrating Monogram” project, he set out to create a truly functional object; the result is this pure, sculptural backpack. Monogram canvas provides structure (the bag can stand on its own, without losing its shape) while soft shearling lends comfort and accents the biomorphic shape. Inside, the roomy central space and a host of pockets keep belongings organised. Also available in blue and beige.
STUDIO IN A TRUNK – CINDY SHERMAN
With her inimitable sense of color and drama, Cindy Sherman reimagines the custom-made Vuitton trunk, those rare pieces created for globetrotters of yore (such as the legendary Stokowski model, created for the maestro in 1930). The Studio in a Trunk is covered in an exclusive Monogram canvas, with silk-screened patches that recall vintage hotel labels. In fact, Sherman designed the motifs using elements of her own work to reflect her journey as an artist. Fitted with a luxurious vanity case, a Camera Messenger bag and a total of 31 drawers (to accommodate treasures large and small), the trunk’s interior dazzles with hues borrowed from the plumage of Mister Frida, the artist’s pet macaw. The Studio in a Trunk is produced in a limited edition of 25.
BAG WITH HOLES – REI KAWAKUBO
Upon seeing Japan’s first Louis Vuitton store in 1978, Rei Kawakubo discovered the allure of French craftsmanship and art de vivre. Today, the creator of Comme des Garçons applies her radical, refined aesthetic to a House icon, revisiting the Sac Plat with boldly conceived asymmetrical cutouts and raw-edged details to produce this provocative “Bag with Holes.” Sleek and capacious, the bag is a natural for travel in durable Monogram canvas. The practical insert pouch keeps belongings secure.
Info and images © Louis Vuitton