Who could have predicted that this design, scattered across the surfaces of countless seemingly endless handbags, tote bags and trunks, would become so instantly recognizable as, say, Chanel no. 5, Coca Cola and Mickey Mouse? Loved by everyone from street musicians to cranky dowagers, the Vuitton bag has been worn by bright stars including, to name a few, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O! Angelina Jolie and Lauren Bacall! Riri and Kim K! and you! And your mother! For generations it has remained coveted, revered and virtually unchanged.
Well, unchanged at least until the arrival of Marc Jacobs. How to describe the electric response that met the audacity of Jacobs when he took the reins of the artistic direction of the house in 1997 and presented Vernis, a patented version of the bag, still sporting the L and V, but now incised in shiny varnish? This was followed by an even more nervous move – Jacob enlisted his hipster pal, artist / designer Stephen Sprouse, to scribble the words “Louis” and “Vuitton” on the surface of the bag, a surprising yet charming result that is therefore deeply desirable several years later.
Now the floodgates were open. In developments that surely would have made Georges Vuitton’s head spin and explode, the whimsical Japanese artist Takashi Murakami remade the monogram in white, introduced a riot of LV color, and at times added a funny character or a wreath of cherry blossoms. For Spring 2008, artist Richard Prince painted the bags with his irreverent works.