Priestess of a total, hypnotic and colourful art, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known throughout the world as an avant-garde artist. True to her signature throughout the years, she applies her
motifs ad infinitum, completely invading the space.
From her modest beginnings in 1929, in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama magically and determinedly transformed her own life. Spinning enchantment from the power of her art while on adventurous quests in the wider world in the 1950s and 1960s, from Tokyo to New York, she rescued herself in the process. She is the artist who has given a glimpse of the infinite in her artwork and, after what appeared as a hiatus to the outside world when she returned to Japan in the 1970s, she has emerged as perhaps the pre-eminent global artist of the 21st Century and certainly the most successful living, female artist.
The last time that Louis Vuitton met the magic of Yayoi Kusama was in 2012. Yet this relationship never ended –ten years after, it evolved, and expanded with conversations continued and extended. Louis Vuitton has a long history of working with artists, which can be traced back to almost a century ago when the eponymous founder’s grandson and family aesthete, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, began commissioning artists to create store windows and works for the stores themselves. This impetus has travelled through time and has had even more resonance in the contemporary era; since 1988, the Maison has invited some of the biggest names in art and design to collaborate including, Sol LeWitt, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons among others. Here, Kusama’s signature objects, motifs and imaginings of infinity take-over the Maison and all of its product categories: from bags to menswear; womenswear to sunglasses; fragrances to shoes and accessories. In turn, there is an evolution of some of Louis Vuitton’s own emblematic pieces, making them equally part of their own and Kusama’s transformative world.
In line with Louis Vuitton’s past artistic collaborations, the encounter between the Maison and Yayoi Kusama is grounded in sincerity, in iconoclasm, and above all, in a mutual appreciation of craft and excellence over the commonplace. At Louis Vuitton, when it comes to the magic of making objects, anything is possible.
Perhaps it is most fitting that this incarnation of the Louis Vuitton and Kusama creative exchange starts where the 2012 conversation left off, with a gift. A gift that encompasses their two worlds most completely. In 2012, Yayoi Kusama took one of the most timeless and magical of the Maison’s emblematic objects and made it her own – she hand-painted a Louis Vuitton trunk with her characteristic polka dots, dots that, for Kusama, represent infinity.
It is an exact replica of these dots, a true representation of Kusama’s hand that is one of the many things in the project that has challenged and advanced the Maison’s savoir-faire. Each incarnation of the polka dots has been presided over by Kusama personally – as have all the many and varied objects in the project – being moved with precision to the nearest millimetre, brushstrokes echoed in uncanny detail with their texture and weight intact. It is in this pursuit of the infinite through craft that both Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama are ultimately united. It is in the making of magical objects that transcend space and time that both are engaged in and recognise each other through. It is here that both Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama want the person who possesses such objects to feel both the care and emotional investment it took to make them; to become part of their story and one that will hopefully become part of the story of future generations – stretching into infinity.
When does fashion go beyond fashion? Maybe when it’s made with eternity and infinity in mind. In the project’s collections an idea of proliferation is paramount. The cascading motifs, their qualities, and the notion of infinity mirrored in the collections’ expansiveness, sweeping up the iconic pieces of the Maison and transforming them along the way, both reflects Kusama’s process and themes while testing and furthering the limits of Louis Vuitton’s savoir faire. And it is perhaps in the apotheosis of handcraft that the idea of the eternal exists for both Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama.
At the same time, there is a notion of how the infinite can translate, of how it can reach people, and be made to function in the everyday, of how it touches people and transforms them. These are clothes and accessories after all, and it is a joyful participation through wearing them that is always sought – this is something Kusama is no stranger to in her art and Louis Vuitton understands through craft.
Encompassing both the universes of women and men through ready-to-wear, bags, shoes, accessories, luggage and trunks and fragrances, Drop 2 of this artistic collaboration explores in even greater breadth the graphic and joyful motifs and motivations of Yayoi Kusama. From PUMKINS to FLOWERS, FACES to INFINITY DOTS and NETS, these latest creations will be available in Louis Vuitton stores starting 31st March 2023.
DROP 2: FLOWERS, FACES, INFINITY DOTS (2), INFINITY NET, AND PUMPKINS COLLECTIONS
It is perhaps the PUMPKINS that takes joyful, centre stage for Drop 2 of this collection. One of the most meaningful and comforting motifs for the artist, the Pumpkin speaks to Kusama – quite literally at times. PUMPKINS have been part of Kusama’s hallucinatory world since being a child, are one of her long-standing themes and occupy a talismanic place in her art. As she says in her autobiography Infinity Net, ‘I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form. What appealed to me most was the pumpkin’s generous unpretentiousness. That and its solid spiritual balance.’ In the PUMPKINS collection, women’s leather goods take on the startling form of squash at times.
In a nod to the original 2012 collection Pumpkin Minaudiere, the present project’s leather Pumpkin Bag, appearing in yellow & black and silver & multicoloured variations takes on the vegetable’s winsome form and marry it to the LV Monogram in a feat of advanced maroquinerie. In more conventional Monogram offerings, the traditional supple canvas and iconic shapes of the House, such as the OnTheGo, Neverfull and Speedy, are the site for large-scale ‘pumpkin portraits’ aligned and overlapping at the base of the bags. This approach continues in the hard-sided luggage, namely the iconic Louis Vuitton trunks. In the men’s leather goods, the same approach is utilised in an alternate blue colour scheme and grounded on the dark, Monogram canvas Eclipse. Here, the Weekend Tote, Trio Messenger and Keepalls draw focus.
In men’s ready-to-wear, it is an abstraction of form and pattern that is the emphasis in exacting jacquards and denim discharge prints in workwear and technical silhouettes. Graphic playfulness with gradations of saturated teals, turquoise and blues, form the sinuous lines of the Pumpkin in a technical, casual blouson and cargo shorts. While a zipped denim workwear jacket and trousers echo the same themes through expert discharge prints that are the height of denim savoir-faire. Denim accessories, such as the Bucket Hat and Baseball Cap, further explore this abstraction. While jewellery and eyewear are concentrated on luminous colour saturation. A wool stole encapsulates all the qualities of Kusama’s PUMPKINS perfectly while L’Immensité fragrance is also engaged in the artist’s pumpkin realm.
The next wave of the project further utilises Kusama’s psychedelic take on FLOWERS. Growing up in rural Japan, Kusama’s parents ran seed nurseries on vast tracts of land and in hothouses; the FLOWERS became part of the vivid childhood visual and aural hallucinations that Kusama documented through drawing, easing the shock and fear of the episodes. As the artist states in Infinity Net: ‘That is the origin of my pictures.’
Utilising Kusama’s FLOWERS painting from 2004, the collection focuses on the women’s world. Here, Kusama’s elegant hyper-florals are translated through the height of savoir-faire as delicate embroideries, leather intarsias and intricate prints on clothing; entwining as placement prints on the legs of gabardine trousers, wrapped dresses and skirts and used as an intricately worked intarsia flourish on leather gilets and bustiers. These techniques are echoed in the precise marquetry of leather goods, such as on the Capucines and Monogram Empreinte OnTheGo and Speedy bags. The FLOWERS are also simply and chicly printed on silk foulards and replicated on the bottles and travelling cases of Spell on You.
Alongside flora, there is also Kusama’s hallucinogenic fauna, in the shape of FACES. Joyful stylized FACES from “My Eternal Soul”, a series of paintings that the celebrated Japanese artist began in 2009 are extracted from and reconfigured, chosen and changed by Kusama and Louis Vuitton, to become distinct characters in the collection. Appearing throughout the women’s and men’s worlds, her joyful creations cascade over clothing and accessories through a combination of hyper-printing and intense embroideries, often on a ground of luminous Delphinium Blue – a new signature colour for Louis Vuitton – or enveloping the Maison’s iconic Monogram.
A certain casual insouciance is found in the clothing of the collection, in part because of the use of denim for women. Here, a light blue stonewash is utilised and features a complex, engineered printing process over jeans, jackets and bustiers. A take on varsity jackets appears for both women and men, with Kusama’s FACES taking the place of the more traditional ‘letterman’ embroideries.For women, luxurious double wool & cashmere is combined with leather shoulder protection in black.
While for men, a Delphinium blue wool with contrast white leather sleeves is utilised. For women, ultra-bright repeat prints on sharp white gabardine skirts and shifts are contrasted with repeat-printed fluid silk pyjama suits. While a more focused concentration on individual character FACES is found in comfortable cotton jersey pieces.
A sense of ease essentially prevails for men in silhouette, at the same time there is an intensity in savoir-faire as much of the men’s collection features embroidered FACES; from a technical casual blouson and cargo shorts to the intarsia fleece jacket, a level of skill is applied that elevates the everyday. The Monogram is joyfully interrupted once more in men’s clothing; a technical teal shirt and shorts is made from a new jacquard that marries the Monogram to Kusama’s chaotic characters. While in women’s leather goods, the iconic Monogram canvas is disrupted by a riot of FACES, with a focus on one of the four (nameless) main characters in a combination of rich printing and distinct embroidery on the Neverfull, OnTheGo, Speedy and Alma.
The combination of chicness and chaos continues with the FACES printed and embroidered on the men’s Taurillon leather Monogram bags, all appearing in the new signature blue. A Multi-Pocket Back Pack, the Bum Bag, the Hobo Cruiser and Keepall are just a few of the new, FACES incarnations. While reversible Bucket Hats, Bandanas and Beach Towels also find a proliferation of characters on them in the new signature blue. Meanwhile, the women’s white leather Capucines also succumbs to the FACES; as do blue foulards and the fragrance, Attrape-Rêves. The FACES finally finish their journey on footwear; from embroideries on the women’s Lous Open Back Sneakers, and Monogram Pool Flats to prints on white and black men’s LV Trainers.
- INFINITY DOTS (PART 2)
The second wave of the INFINITY DOTS collection is found across categories and genders once more. Here, additional colourways include black & fuchsia, sky blue & white and white & red. Printed gabardine and 3D knits provide style and structure in signature women’s silhouettes realised in black & fuchsia. While black & fuchsia dots also find form in Monogram Empreinte women’s leather goods, such as the OnTheGo, Neverfull and Pochette Metis. Monogram Empreinte also provides a medium for the sky blue & white colourway, particularly for styles such as the Speedy 20 and Nano Noe. Meanwhile, Epi leather structures white & red dots for House icons such as the Twist and Neonoe. Additional ‘accessories’ can also be found in these colourways: from black & fuchsia reversible bucket hats and silk foulards, via sky blue & white dotted baseball caps to white & red INFINITY DOTS surfboards! For men, the collection mainly finds form through footwear: from grained calf moccasins and sandals to the latest LV Trainer drops in sky blue & white and yellow & white.
- INFINITY NET
Kusama’s mesmeric and vast INFINITY NET paintings first brought her to prominence in the New York art world of 1959. Beguiling viewers with their repetitive, obsessive, rhythmic hand, the series of paintings she completed then are amongst the most sought-after of her works now.
In the INFINITY NET collection, it is both the delicacy and strength of these works that are quietly celebrated and utilised. Using the blue-black ground and white details of the original composition, an INFINITY piece is translated into a print on Taurillon leather, enveloping the entire Capucines bag. An alternate, contemporary fuchsia iteration is also printed on the Capucines.
Launching the 31st March, Drop 2 of Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama‘s collaboration will once again be celebrated within a globally immersive visual landscape, ranging from window displays, to Pop-ups, to anamorphic billboards, and an advertising campaign featuring some familiar Ambassadors and friends of the House.
Collection shoot stylism: Carine Roitfeld
Collection shoot photographer: Oliver Hadlee Pearch
Still-life photographer: Bobby Doherty