London Fashion Umbrella: LV and MJ in Paris

While London seemed the place to be for summer 2012, that didn’t prevent me from taking a time out for historic fashion in Paris back in June. In addition to making my first and life-changing visit to the flea market “les puces” at Clignancourt, I strolled down the Louvre Gardens to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs for a gander at their current exhibition Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs.

The exhibition curated by Pamela Golbin of Arts Decoratifs, and designed by Gainsbury and Whiting of McQueen Savage Beauty fame, offers to present Vuitton and Jacobs, two iconic fashion figures, as innovators and tastemakers of their epochs, and to survey the designs and image of Louis Vuitton as a brand. Inevitably this exhibition has a strong brand focus, and presents both garments and accessories from every collection Jacobs has designed at the helm of Louis Vuitton. However, the historic material that foregrounds Louis Vuitton’s contemporary image is informative, well presented and stunningly beautiful in its often minimal exhibition design.

Within the museum’s purpose built costume galleries over two floors, the exhibition is divided into two curatorial zones. On the lower level, the exhibition sets the scene for Louis Vuitton’s entrance onto the scene as a packer and later designer of luggage for the nineteenth century traveller. The exhibition presents the time as a paradox – people were travelling more but not necessarily wearing less. A lady’s wardrobe occupied considerable space. This is illustrated by displays of crinoline dresses on rotating platforms in front of mirrors that exaggerate the volume as well as the beauty of these garments. A doll’s trousseau of the period shows the multitude of items in a lady’s wardrobe in miniature but to great effect.

The historic portion of the exhibition is sober in design, and grounded in its contextualisation, but still employs enticing modes of display. One vitrine is backlit and wallpapered with x-rays of men’s and women’s garments in luggage. On the whole, the history and biography of Vuitton are brought to life with strong artefacts including advertising imagery, ledgers, and even the block used to print LV’s signature monogram canvas.

On the upper floor, we enter the present and recent past and take a high intensity jouney through the mind and ouevre of Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. Before a series of displays that echo the mood of LV advertising and editorial photography, visitors pass through a video and lightbox installation that juxtaposes images of Marc Jacobs’ inspirations and accomplishments. In this sort of video installation mood board, we get a high octane taste of the obsessions, allusions and affinities that drive the designer’s work for Vuitton. Some of my own favourite films, personalities and artworks were among the myriad of images included, and perhaps because of this I was unexpectedly enthralled by this display. I felt like I leaned more about Jacobs from this barrage of pop culture imagery than I would by viewing every garment or accessory he ever designed.

In any case, the rest of the exhibit did indeed present most of the collection ensembles and accssories Jacobs has designed for Louis Vuitton.

A variety of altered mannequins, animal heads and props flesh out somewhat chronological displays of Jacobs’ collaborations with designers and artists such as Stepehen Sprouse, Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami.

A panoply of LV handbags from Jacobs’ tenure are presented as tempting suites in a display that ¬†takes the form of a giant box of chocolates. This archive display looked more retail than museum, but it was nice to be able to view so many LV styles at once. Some looks have already become laughable – and others are engrained in the fashion memory for their classic chic.

A still from Ruth Hogben's film for LV, 'Fan Club'

The contemporary display also includes an entertaining short film by Ruth Hogben which features LV archive pieces in a Busby Berkeley style revue of 1930s style dancing girls. The film underlines Louis Vuitoon’s heritage as well as its position as a commissioner of new creative works at the forefront of fashion media. You can watch the film here via Showstudio.

The Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibition is a retrospective, an homage, a lookbook and an advertisement. While it is hard for any exhibition to be all things to all people, the curation and design of this one make a pretty good case for the ability of museums and brands to present intelligent yet crowd pleasing displays about fashion past and present.

Louis Vuitton March Jacobs is on view until September 16th and the exhibition catalog is available to buy here in English.

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  • The working life of Museum of London » Blog Archive » Extramural Activities
    September 7, 2012 - 4:32 am

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