If you happen to be on Bond Street, Oxford Street, or Brompton Road, chances are you'll be enveloped in the spot-studded world of Yayoi Kusama. In 2023, Kusama returns for her second collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Here, we explore the new collection and how the French luxury fashion house has reinterpreted Kusama's ideas of infinity.
In January 2023, the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram received a colourful makeover from Kusama. The fashion house and artist have teamed up once again to create an eclectic, playful, and otherworldly collection. Louis Vuitton have reimagined Kusama's visual vocabulary in their garments and accessories, inviting us into the uncanny and infinite world of Kusama.
Renowned as the “Princess of Polka Dots”, Kusama is a Contemporary Japanese artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation. She has been creating art since the 1950s, informed by her bizarre childhood hallucinations of flowers mutating into endless fields of dots. This is a core and transformative memory for Kusama, who described herself as “self obliterating” into this boundless world of dots. Indeed, it is this self obliteration which shapes the weird and wonderful world of Kusama as we know it today.
Kusama's dots are certainly not limited to the two-dimensional. Her famed infinity mirror rooms situate the viewer within an engulfing room of twinkling LED lights, visualising the infinite world of dots Kusama imagined. Every year millions of gallery-goers queue to step inside Kusama's world and experience that uncanny sense of self obliteration.
However, immersive experiences within the confines of the art gallery do not seem to be enough for Kusama. The successful living artist has a desire to spread her infinite world to the extreme, and her ongoing collaboration with Louis Vuitton is a step towards that.
In both of her collaborative endeavours with Louis Vuitton, Kusama has enlivened the cult classic designs of the French fashion house with her psychedelic palette. Whether it be on tapered trousers or leather goods, Kusama's multi-coloured polka dot patterns have a transformative power over Louis Vuitton. Under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquire, who veers into space-age inspired design himself, the Louis Vuitton brand has entered a new and exciting era of artistry. The 2023 collaboration is a true testament to that, uniting the aesthetic of one of the most important living artists of our age with Ghesquire's utopian vision for Louis Vuitton.
The collaboration also speaks to the longstanding and symbiotic relationship between fashion and art. From Elsa Schiaparelli's surreal collaborations with Salvador Dalí, to Marc Jacobs' playful exchange with Takashi Murakami - the conversation between art and fashion is a fruitful and enduring one. Kusama's personal sense of style is intrinsic to her outlandish conceptual art. From her red bob wig to her printed attire, Kusama cloaks herself in her art. In her present collaboration with Louis Vuitton, Kusama invites us too to wear her art on our bodies, becoming part of her vision of infinity.
Back in 2012, Kusama was invited for her initial collaboration with Louis Vuitton when Marc Jacobs was at its helm. Jacobs himself dubbed the collection a “monumental marriage between art and commerce”. The first Kusama x LV collection was bold and playful, with Kusama's dots covering everything from handbags to heels. Models wore sleek black bobs for the shoot in an ode to Kusama's iconic hairstyle, and the designs have a fun-loving appeal to particular to 2010s fashion. This collaboration followed a host of retrospective Kusama exhibitions and Infinity Mirror Room installations, and her collaboration with Jacobs was testament to her immense global popularity.
This year Kusama returns to Louis Vuitton, now at the age of 93, to offer her vision of “infinity” once again. This time around, the designs have a more chic and timeless appeal, with Kusama's visual vocabulary refined to create a sophisticated collection.
Ghesquiere's Louis Vuitton extrapolated two central motifs from Kusama's oevure for the collection: her mirrored spheres and, of course, her colourful painted polka dots. The mirrored sphere pieces are not only a nod to Kusama's infinity mirror rooms, but also an homage to her “Narcissus Garden” installation at the Venice Biennale in 1966. In the boundary-defying installation, Kusama created a “kinetic carpet” with 1,500 mirrored spheres that were intended to reflect the souls of her viewers. The decision to include this particular motif is testament to the considered approach of Louis Vuitton, and their renewed desire to preserve the integrity of art history.
The painted polka dot pieces are similarly innovative. In order to replicate the artistry of Kusama, Louis Vuitton used an innovative serigraphy technique to create a 3D and painterly effect on their monogram handbags. Made by hand, the leather goods are a true feat of craftsmanship that parallels the attentive approach of the artist herself.
Since January, enourmous inflatable Kusama's and eerie animatronics have cropped up in Louis Vuitton store windows. The life-size - and very life-like - Kusama waves out to onlookers and invites them into her world. Several concept stores have been completely overhauled with Kusama's dots, engulfing them in a frenzy of commerce and art. Likewise, Harrods has also received a Kusama makeover, its facade covered in colourful polka dots. This collection is a testament to two things: the unstoppable popularity of Kusama, and society's thirsty hunger for more when it comes to art and fashion.
Unlike her earlier collaboration in 2012, Kusama's 2023 exchange with Louis Vuitton is happening during a transformative moment in art history. The digital world is intertwined with the world of art and fashion like never before. Louis Vuitton have followed suit, creating Instagram filters and an app that invites us to enter the surreal world of Kusama. What's more, there have been (uninformed) rumours about Kusama x Louis Vuitton NFT drops since the collaboration launch. However, given Kusama's irrepressible will to create her own world, it wouldn't seem so out of the ordinary for her to explore the new frontier of the blockchain. One thing is certain: Kusama is conquering the high street with this self obliterating collaboration.
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