Star-studded MoMA dinner celebrates six new takes on Louis Vuitton monogram

Creative minds reinterpret the iconic LV symbol.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:44pm

There is probably only one luxury brand that could get architect Frank Gehry, artist Cindy Sherman, fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and the elusive Rei Kawakubo, product designer Marc Newson, and shoe mogul Christian Louboutin all on board the same project.

That brand is (who else?) Louis Vuitton, which has a project to celebrate the most famous monogram in the world. Each of the creatives reinterpreted a Louis Vuitton bag or luggage item using the iconic brown-and-brass coloured monogram canvas.

On November 7, Bernard Arnault's LVMH Group gathered nearly all six iconoclasts (Kawakubo was characteristically missing), as they were called, for a dinner at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

One hundred VIP guests and a handful of journalists, attended the dinner, which took place among globes of light hovering above the museum's garden. At the pre-dinner cocktail, Nicole Kidman sat in a corner laughing with husband Keith Urban, Charlotte Gainsbourg leaned against a wall, pouting coyly in bright snakeskin stripes from the spring-summer 2015 Louis Vuitton collection, and Chloe Sevigny was dressed in a white lace-up dress from the same line.

Rapper will.i.am chatted amiably with Anna Wintour and Frank Gehry, while Catherine Deneuve wore daring red. Photographer to the stars Patrick Demarchelier had his own pop-up studio to shoot celebrities live for the brand's Instagram campaign.

The event was co-hosted by the brand's CEO and chairman, Michael Burke, along with Arnault's notoriously private daughter, Delphine Arnault. (She has been working for her father's group since 2000, but only joined Louis Vuitton as vice-president last year.)

"The monogram has always been at the centre of the house," says Delphine, clad in a chic black lace dress. "It's our DNA. We wanted to celebrate that.

We wanted to see the perspective of those geniuses on the monogram
Delphine Arnault

"We wanted to see the perspective of those geniuses on the monogram, and they mix their codes with the codes of the monogram. I'm so proud to work at LV, and to have this responsibility," she says.

Delphine, tapped to occupy one of the key positions in the group, is still getting used to the limelight. She joined the brand "more or less the same time" as designer Nicolas Ghesquière, who replaced Marc Jacobs.

With all this fresh talent at the top, it seems like a new chapter for Louis Vuitton. Those at the top might have felt the time was right to celebrate the most iconic aspect of the French label.

The LV monogram is at the heart of its public recognition. The label started off making travel trunks in France, and went on to become one of the world's most recognised luxury labels. It diversified into ready-to-wear, accessories, jewellery and timepieces - then fine art and travel books.

Louis Vuitton founded the house in 1854. After his death in 1892, his son Georges Vuitton created the now famed LV monogram in honour of his late father. It became a pioneering symbol of luxury branding, and one which would be copied by brands for over a decade.

Despite the reports of logo fatigue in emerging markets such as China, this is one brand that, at least outwardly, shows confidence in the desirability of its logo.

"I started working on the project with Nicolas about a year ago. As a designer he is so impressive and focused, and he has a precise vision of who the Louis Vuitton woman is. He wants to create a modern wardrobe for her," Delphine says. "The six iconoclasts we chose are the best in their field. They all work so well with their mind and their hands.

"I have known Gehry for a while. We recently had the inauguration of Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which he designed. Cindy Sherman is a friend of Nicolas; her work is fantastic. When I asked Lagerfeld, he immediately said yes. He's been with Fendi [an LVMH brand] for so long. And I have always loved Louboutin's shoes."

The results were launched on October 15, and are available commercially in-store; many items have sold out.

Marc Newson does shearling backpacks, Kawakubo has holes burnt into a monogram tote, and Lagerfeld's contribution is a boxer's punch bag and gloves inside a tall travel case.

Sherman made a custom Vuitton trunk with a vanity section, and 31 colourful drawers, plus a camera messenger bag with patchwork stickers of some of her own famous images.

"Cindy does a lot of cycling in New York," says Delphine, "and she really wanted to put her cameras inside this bag."

The art connection is an ongoing affair for the family and the brand, and not just because of the Foundation for Creativity and the museum that opened in October.

With Takashi Murakami's popular Vuitton cartoon-artwork monogram handbags, and the graffiti bags that Stephen Sprouse collaborated on, it was one of the first labels to produce fine art and fashion collaborations.

Louboutin created a travel trolley and shopping bag, and Gehry provided "the most technically challenging" item in the project, a small, hard, sculptural, twisted box with a handle on top and a blue lambskin interior, which Delphine carried that evening.

"There is not one straight line on this entire bag, only curving ones and it's a hard box. Frank worked on everything from the design of the closure to the little hardware bits," she says.

"The process was really fantastic. We have very fond memories of these projects, and it all went quite fast. It was fascinating to work with them, as each has their own personality and style."