NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).-
Theres a piece of art thats been on display in Faye McLeods studio for most of the past decade, depicting what she considers her mantra.
In another corporate office, such art might be a portrait of an eagle, soaring above the word perseverance or a modern black-and-white typographical poster with a phrase like work hard and be nice to people.
But in the office of McLeod, who is the visual image director of Louis Vuitton, the sign is a few lines of unpunctuated rainbow-colored text, inspired by lyrics from Notorious B.I.G.s 1997 song Hypnotize: Louis Louis Louis cant you see how your world does amaze me.
The phrase reminds McLeod, 49, that whenever Im sitting in the studio and we dont have an idea for something, go into the archives, she said. The ideas are always there.
About six months ago, the mantra helped inspire a new project, to celebrate Louis Vuittons 200th birthday: filling the windows of the brands 460 stores with trunks designed by 200 people.
Trunks are Vuittons legacy, the pieces upon which he founded the company in Paris in 1854. Using water-repellent canvas material, he designed his trunks with flat tops (as opposed to the more common round-top trunks, which allowed water to roll off but werent as easily transportable).
His son, Georges Ferréol Vuitton, greatly expanded the company and created the LV monogram, and today the brand maintains a rich collection of Georges drawings, advertisements and other historical materials.
With Georges, weve got so much, McLeod said. But with Louis, weve kind of got trunks. Thats why we based a lot of the work around the trunks, because its what weve got in the archive. It felt the right thing to do.
So, this year, her team of window display artists and technical wizards perhaps best known for inundating stores with Yayoi Kusamas chickenpox dots and tentacles in 2012 began brainstorming a list of people to make or decorate trunks. Virgil Abloh, the endlessly well-connected menswear artistic director for Louis Vuitton, was very, very involved, said Ansel Thompson, the teams art director
Thompson and McLeod didnt want only traditional visual artists, but an assortment of visionaries who could capture the spirit of the mysterious Vuitton like poets, scientists, explorers and activists, they said. These people were advised to think of their trunks as a vessel: for an object, a dream, a future, a reflection, a desire. (In the document briefing them on the project, the Louis Vuitton team included a copy of the Louis Louis Louis image.)
The contributors, who include Drake and Gloria Steinem, as well as LVMH designers like Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones, were given boxes with common dimensions but told 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 trunks made from jelly, mini-balloons and polished stainless steel. There are trunks covered in greenery (by Mr. Flower Fantastic) and tapestry (by Qualeasha Wood). There is a trunk that flies made by a French aeronautical designer and tested recently inside the LV store on Place Vendôme in Paris, McLeod said and another on skateboard wheels.
At one point, Vuitton asked a mushroom grower to turn a trunk into dust and then make mushrooms from the powder, but the collaboration ultimately failed to materialize.
Members of the K-pop band BTS covered their trunk in cartoonish doodles of whales, stripes, arrows, hearts and a large carrot. While a few tardy contributors trunks have not been returned to the brand yet, the BTS submission arrived really quickly, McLeod said. They obviously knew what they wanted to express.
Some trunks were more of a collaboration. When fashions favorite astrologer, Susan Miller, created an astrological chart for Vuitton, McLeod and Thompsons team built a diorama of the chart using neon-colored planets. They positioned the galaxy inside a trunk and drilled peepholes on the outside, painting a night sky on the exterior.
Eventually Vuitton will release a book chronicling the collaboration, as well as exhibit the physical trunks and hold a charity auction with Sothebys. For each trunk, Louis Vuitton has pledged 10,000 euros (roughly $11,800) to charity; contributors were given a list of 15 global arts education nonprofits to choose to receive their donation.
Until then, images of the trunks will be displayed in Louis Vuitton store windows for 100 days, starting Aug. 4 the founders birthday, the impetus for the whole project.
As another aspect of the project, in New York City, the exterior of the Fifth Avenue store will feature a Godzilla-size digital image of Vuitton, rendered in checkered pixels, with the words Happy Birthday Louis.
The image Vuitton is standing with his hands in his pocket and a distant gaze, evoking more of a young startup founder posing in a mens fashion magazine than a 19th-century trunk-maker is not based on an actual photo, but thats not for lack of trying. There just isnt much left of the man behind the most famous name in fashion.
We only have one image of him, Thompson said. We always wonder what he was actually like.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times