Written by India Espy-Jones
Under new creative helms, LVMH and other designers, many with a series of successors, have exhibited near-rebrands in most of Fashion’s biggest houses. Luxury brands fall to the regime of creative directors, who, in many instances, fail to uphold the name they design beneath. Do creative directors have the authority to reshape long-standing brand DNA?
Louis Vuitton trunks crafted in the Asnières-sur-Seine atelier are the House’s absolute reference. The LV 1886 monogram canvas was a symbol of over 160 years of savoir-faire in the name of Vuitton. Who, without Fashion archive until 1997, has since only three creative directors in its history — to both success and detriment.
Marc Jacobs encoded the LV DNA into Fashion with the House’s debut ready-to-wear collection for FW 1998: Travel and Luxury. With codes of appropriation and history, Jacobs encoded the Louis Vuitton woman. For Menswear, however, impact lacked, to then undergo unforeseen directions.
Since Marc Jacobs’ leave in 2013, the LVMH House released menswear collections that departed further from the original look. The Fall/Winter 2017 Supreme collaboration under, Style Director of Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones launched the House from high-fashion to logo saturation — but it sold.
A new Creative Director of Menswear was appointed three seasons later: founder of streetwear brand, Off-White, Virgil Abloh, which led to immediate backlash over Abloh’s reputation: knock-offs, and plagiarization. Despite his comment on the future of street: “It is gonna die.”; Abloh’s collections for Louis Vuitton leave many in question. What is the future of the House’s DNA — and, what is it now?
The House of Vuitton never had brand identity in the line of high-Fashion. Neither did Louis Vuitton himself, (or the DNA of) as many other luxury brands had: Coco Chanel, Miuccia Prada, Silvia Venturini Fendi, Gianni Versace, Valentino Garavani. Marc Jacobs, then head designer of his own label, Marc by Marc Jacobs, could only translate Vuitton within domains of his personal assertion. All alike Abloh.
As the first Black Artistic Director for the LVMH House of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh inherited the DNA of one of the oldest, and most powerful luxury businesses. The first generation Ghanian-American’s work in Fashion has its origin with Chicago streetwear, and Kanye West collaborations. Abloh and West both interned at Fendi Roma in 2009, which caught the attention of Louis Vuitton CEO, Michael Burke.
Virgil Abloh, in his first collection at Louis Vuitton, managed a 56 look show with almost all Black and PoC male models including Kid Cudi, Dev Hynes, Steve Lacy and Playboi Carti; Spring 2019 Menswear was the most Black dominant show in the history of Louis Vuitton. In the most recent collection for the LVMH House, Virgil Abloh “wasn’t interested” in designing a “younger” Louis Vuitton as he was expected to. His construction of DNA was not like the Marc Jacobs LV: appropriation of culture as Travel and Luxury. Abloh denounced streetwear. He intended, instead, to offer the DNA of savoir-faire: “I went in and photographed [the craftsmen] work benches, and blew them up.”
Brand DNA at the House of Louis Vuitton has always, yet never been in question. The 1854 DNA of luxury French trunks birthed Vuitton. But now, questions arise in what the future of the House’s fashion line is, and the genre and direction of modern LV. After all, memories of the “real” Vuitton Fashion was never Louis at all: It was Marc Jacobs.