The Louis Vuitton monogram canvas is so iconic and omnipresent that not many of its rabid fans are aware that the house’s most recognisable fabric is 160 years old. But LV won’t let that be the case. Its current marketing blitz called “Celebrating Monogram” involves six “artists” to help “modernise” what could be considered one of the most copied bag materials on earth. Contrary to expectations, these half-a-dozen contributors aren’t all fashion designers, only two are: Karl Lagerfeld and Rei Kawakubo. Perhaps Marc Newson can be considered since he dabbles in clothing (one of his earliest endeavours is the collaboration with G-Star Raw), and maybe even Christian Louboutin since his shoes often incorporate dressmaking elements. As for the other two—Frank Gehry and Cindy Sherman, perhaps it’s their connection with fashion (Mr Gehry designed the newly opened Vuitton Foundation museum and Ms Sherman had lensed Comme des Garçons ads in the past) that allowed them to qualify.
Of all the bags that came out of this celebration, the one that caught our eye is the tote by Rei Kawakubo (above). This is the second time Ms Kawakubo re-imagines the Monogram canvas. However, in the first outing—to celebrate LV’s 30th year in Japan—in 2008, it was branded as a Comme des Garçons affair, or, more specifically, Louis Vuitton@Comme des Garçons. The CDG Kottodori store in Omotesando, Tokyo was re-decorated as an LV outpost, in which 6 reiterations of the Monogram canvas were displayed, and only available for order (no cash and carry!). Interestingly, the intensely private Ms Kawakubo allowed LV to use the same photo of her that accompanied the publicity of that venture in the current collaboration. We still do not know what she looks like today.
The current bag—just one version based on the 1968 Sac Plat—is not unexpected; it sports irregular holes that have come to be very much associated with the CDG aesthetic. Some people wonder how such a bag can be used without its content involuntarily falling out—clearly not smartphone-friendly. The actual item comes with what LV calls the “insert pouch” to hold contents. This looks, as it appears to us, similar to those brown micro-fibre dust bags that come with Monogram canvas merchandise. Isn’t it quite like Ms Kawakubo to make a slip case that protects the exterior into something that can be used to line the interior? Outside goes in!
Louis Vuitton X Rei Kawakubo tote, SGD3,800, is available at Louis Vuitton stores