The Genteel
March 9, 2021


Louis Vuitton S/S 2012 collection (Source:

Soft innocent chords play from a music box while an ethereal procession of girls move across the runway donning lacy, pastel-coloured ensembles, tiaras and stilettos. In the background, more delicately-dressed girls are sitting atop a carousel of white horses daintily clutching onto their handbags. The scene is from Marc Jacobs' S/S 2012 collection for Louis Vuitton at the Louvre's Cour Carrée in Paris. The collection comments on the theme of the merry-go-round in a wondrous statement of exaggerated yet breathtaking femininity.

A kiss at the Louis Vuitton S/S 2012 show

Everyone is always eager to behold Jacobs' creations. The designer's spring ready-to-wear collection at New York's Lexington Avenue Amory followed by his collection for Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week are among the most anticipated shows of each season. The detailed precision of each collection coupled with their theatrical unveiling are a testament to his obsessive and tireless work ethic. Yet as he emerges victorious season after season, getting by on little sleep, hoards of caffeine and cigarettes, Jacobs' energetic creative frenzy - and, masochistic tendencies - seemingly embodies the magnificence and the madness of 21st century fashion. Marc Jacobs is on a roll.

On March 9, 2012, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will open the doors of Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs, a major exhibition which tells the story of both men. It will explore the parallels between the simple 19th trunk-maker from a small French town who went on to found one of the most enduring leather goods companies in the world and the avant-garde New York fashion designer who has transformed the 158-year-old company into a serious house of fashion in just under 15 years. The exhibition explores how the two iconic personalities, each in their own way, largely contributed to the writing of contemporary fashion history. Their work will be placed side-by-side in a visual dialogue attesting to the excellence of their creativity. 

Yves Carcelle, outgoing CEO of Louis Vuitton, told Jonathan van Meter in a recent interview: "If we have built a fashion business inside Louis Vuitton, it is due to Marc."

Curated by renowned fashion author and lecturer, Pamela Golbin, the exhibition will be housed on two floors. Guests will find a selection of Vuitton's iconic leather trunks juxtaposed with Jacobs' most renowned designs for the French fashion house. Through the exhibition, Golbin highlights two periods in the brand's history: the 19th century era of the industrial revolution and the present-day period of globalised contemporary fashion.

However, the launch of the exhibition and Jacobs' recent feats at Paris Fashion Week have been dampened by rumors of Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton to take over at the house of Dior. There is sadness at the possibility of Jacobs' departure, and rightly so. Yves Carcelle, outgoing CEO of Louis Vuitton, told Jonathan van Meter in a recent interview: "If we have built a fashion business inside Louis Vuitton, it is due to Marc." Jacobs has nevertheless confirmed that the rumours are false. "I am at Vuitton, and I am very happy there," Jacobs told Vogue this month. "I don't know; maybe someday in the future, maybe years from now, I may end up going someplace else, maybe Dior. But right now I am at Vuitton, and all that matters to me is that that's where I am and I'm going to keep doing my thing."

Jacobs has transformed the French label that was founded by Vuitton in 1854 on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris. Until Jacobs' arrival in 1997, the company was simply renowned for its fine leather bags and trunks usually branded with the famous LV monogram. When Jacobs assumed his present post, he liberated Vuitton's creative spirit; he gave Vuitton ready-to-wear, fine jewellery and fashion for men or women, instilling within the old Parisian company a contemporary feel for fashion.

Marc Jacobs (Source:

And there's more: Jacobs' artistic vision goes beyond the realm of fashion to merge with the realm of art. His collaborations with artists including Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince made Louis Vuitton the luxury brand most closely linked to the art world. Both company and designer have embraced this new identity at Vuitton's New Bond Street Maison flagship in London which features a giant glass staircase, bookstore, exhibition space and artwork by Murakami and Gilbert & George. Jacobs might be credited for what appears to be an evolving trend merging the worlds of luxury goods and contemporary art, the most recent example being German artist Anselm Reyle's designs of Dior handbags. Jacobs' own art collection boasts names such as Ed Ruscha, Elizabeth Peyton, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Georges Braque. His passion for collecting art even sent him into debt in earlier years.

Jacobs' masochistic and often neurotic tendencies seemingly marry an innate desire for perfection with a predisposition for the extreme - personality traits which form the basis of his designs and penchant for hard work. He's been in therapy for 20 years, spent time in rehab and has had drug-use and addiction issues over the years. But Jacobs is honest about all of this as he is about his drive to always do something better than what he has done before. At the end of the day, the final judge of the product is the wearer and not the critic. Fashion is shaped by the pulse of the times. It forges a visual dialogue with the past. In this manner, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton meet to provide testimony to the present magnificence of their Parisian brand - through the visual impact of their artistry. 

Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, March 9 to September 16, 2012.



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