The current grim state of the retail industry appears to deteriorate in a downward spiral. According to several news reports, luxury fashion sales have seen a precipitous drop. Brands have been trying many options to maintain their relevance. For years, they have hired celebrities to represent their respective brands and have even collaborated with fine artists to produce collectors’ item limited-edition pieces.
The century-old luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, is no stranger to commissioning artists to create new designs. As a trailblazer in collaborations, the designs are often groundbreaking and wildly popular. Their latest collaboration is with Jeff Koons, an ego-maniacal, delusional, master marketer and self aggrandizing artist. Yes, THAT Jeff Koons, the super-star artist of the decadent 80s, who creates giant sculptures based on pop culture objects made from stainless steel, life size porcelain sculptures of Michael Jackson along with his pet monkey, huge photos of his Italian porn star ex-wife copulating and countless other pieces better suited to be exhibited in a landfill.
What set me into a rage wasn’t that Vuitton hired an artist who speaks of himself in third person, but the subject matter. The resulting collaboration is an accessories collection which includes, handbags, scarves and small leather goods entitled “Masters.” The collection celebrates fine arts’ ‘Old Masters’. Koons reproduced highly detailed works from Da Vinci (“Mona Lisa”), Van Gogh (“Wheat Field With Cypresses”), Titian (“Mars, Venus and Cupid”), Fragonard (“Girl With a Dog”) and Rubens (“The Tiger Hunt”) onto Louis Vuitton items.
Koon’s objective was to bring “high art to the masses and eradicate the elitism of the art world” at a time when museum attendance is waning. I ask incredulously, “TO THE MASSES?” Oh, puleez! Rather, he is catering to the 1% who can afford a $3-$4K handbag plastered with very familiar iconic works of art! Reproducing high art emblazoned with tacky hip-hop mogul gold lettering on handbags won’t eradicate elitism, but rather perpetuates it. Moreover, it makes the customer look foolish for having bought into Koon’s crass marketing tactic. Bet these new items will pop up on eBay shortly.
I just can’t fathom the pretentiousness of reproducing works of ‘ The Masters’ onto what’s deemed a status bag. Can you envision a one percenter wearing the latest LuLu athleisure get-up, tossing her LV logo’d Mona Lisa handbag ala Koons into a shopping cart for a Target run? LAUGH OUT LOUD!
So why did Vuitton choose Jeff Koons when they could have anointed a lesser known artist to bring a coat of freshness to a century old brand? For one, he has known the Arnault famille, owners of the brand and the LVMH conglomerate for some time. They also happen to own several of Koons’ original works. What better way to create a stir than collaborate with a provocateur who several years ago sold the most expensive work as a living artist at auction?
I will give Koons credit for his technical feat in designing this collection. It was a labor of love, two years in the making, in which he meticulously studied the colors of the original works, digitally printed in high definition and kept in storage at the Louvre. The colors are rich and beautiful; he took pains to perfect the crackle finish of the old painting surface and reproduce onto the leather bags.
After reading several articles about the collaboration, I still couldn’t reconcile how Koons thought he was bringing ‘high art to the masses.’
I had a lengthy conversation with my friend and fashion designer, Jamie Kreitman, who called this collection “an atrocity.” Given her hilarious sense of Brooklyn-say-it-like-it-is humor, we had to do something hilarious to mock the Vuitton-Koons folly.
We thought “How do you bring a $4K high art bag to the masses?” Here’s how we achieved our goal.
- 8. Sew two pieces of grosgrain ribbon that complements the LV color scheme and glue it with a glue gun onto the handles.
VOILA! You have successfully brown paper-bagged it.
Why not head to your local Louis Vuitton store and ask what the employees think of your newest DIY endeavor? Let’s not forget they receive formal training and have scrutinized what they sell for a long period of time.
Make sure to wear the most obvious knock-off Vuitton to this outing. This coat is a vintage Franklin-Simon zip quilt coat with the FS insignia and the Louis Vuitton logo embroidered all throughout. This is a walking copyright infringement. Luckily, Franklin-Simon, a department store next to Orbach’s on NY’s W. 34th Street is long gone otherwise an LV lawsuit would’ve put them under.
We entered the store not certain how well we would be received. To our surprise the employees got our sense of humor and laughed at our ingenuity. We are certain they were very impressed with us, including my faux Vuitton garb.
This collaboration certainly stirred up a conversation about art. A lovely LV representative stated that the purpose of these collaborations is to spur reactions, emotions and conversations about art. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project and ask you to share your perspective. Now….back to rock, scissors, paper.