The New Brain Behind Vuitton
A dark, almost eerie aesthetic took the stage on the runway at Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2014 show this past September. From the haunted carousel at the center of the stage to the shades of black, navy and muted sequins that adorned the models, the show seemed almost to put forward the air of a funeral. We’ve since learned that was exactly what creative director Marc Jacobs was going for.
By now we’ve all heard the news that shook the fashion world right down to their Oh Really! pumps in Paris this past September: Marc Jacobs will be leaving his post at Louis Vuitton after a prosperous 16-year tenure. Though this came as no real surprise as rumors have been buzzing throughout the press for months now, it does leave one to ponder one thing: what’s next for the iconic Louis Vuitton collection?
When a young Jacobs signed onto the luggage house in 1997, Louis Vuitton was nothing more than just that- a simple luggage store with little brand recognition. Since then, under the direction of Jacobs, the brand has grown exponentially in revenue and popularity- annual sales last year hit $9.5 billion worldwide. During this time the product line was also expanded to include to a luxurious, most coveted ready to wear line, as well as a shoe collection. The most important, and well-known feat for Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton was setting the standard in the accessories sector fusing art with fashion on the runway. This is evident in the collaborations with artists such as Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami where pop-art designs were blended with the traditional Louis Vuitton luggage origins. Together they created several hugely popular bag collections that peaked throughout the early part of the new millennium.
With this influx of revenue and popularity and the brand ultimately being at the center of global luxury status, it seems somewhat untimely for the man at the forefront of this expansion to be stepping down, doesn’t it? Not quite. As Jacobs’ contract end nears, Louis Vuitton has found its growth slowing. This is most likely due to the evolving taste of luxury consumers. Lately it seems that customers are looking to shop more elite brands, such as Hermes, that aren’t so mainstream and widely available.
After all, Louis Vuitton is among the most often counterfeited brands in the world. Luxury brands are supposed to be just that- luxe and coveted the world over. Consumers of these types of goods don’t want to be carrying what just anyone can buy down on Canal Street or over in Karama.
After having a quirky young Jacobs mastermind the expansion of Louis Vuitton over the better part of the last 20 years, it seems LVMH is wanting to steer the brand back toward its exclusive origins. If a little reawakening is what Louis Vuitton needs, perhaps it would be best to look to a successor who has been capable in the past of executing such a task. Enter Nicolas Ghesquiere.
We’ve seen the recently appointed artistic director at Vuitton excel in brand transformation before at Balenciaga. Much like Jacobs, Ghesquiere drew from his own experiences and inspirations to help the brand acquire a sense of newness, and ultimately lead the brand to where it is today. For example, Jacobs revamped the traditional Louis Vuitton monogram with a pop-art touch to create the phenomenon that was the graffiti collection while Ghesquiere designed and curated the motorcycle bag, making it the signature bag of Balenciaga as we know it. While Jacobs was inspired by his punk/pop beginnings, Ghesquiere saw his passion for sci-fi movies as his muse.
So what is next for the Louis Vuitton collection?
Because of the changing tastes of consumers, I foresee a shift away from the fun and poppy personality that much of the world grew to love, back to a more traditional take on the brand. We’ve already seen a change in the trend of bag shape–structured bags with clean, rigid lines have been all over the runways, which takes us back to the feeling of old times.
Apart from handbags, it will be quite interesting to see where Ghesquiere leads Louis Vuitton in the way of apparel. During his time at Balenciaga, he consulted the archives of the brand to find inspiration however he may not have the same opportunity to do so at Louis Vuitton. If you remember, ready to wear at Vuitton was only introduced a short time ago. Nevertheless, Ghesquiere has shown his capabilities before, and is thus no stranger to brand reincarnation. That being said, the question is not really if he can do it, but rather what he will come up with.
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