Editor’s Note: The collection was originally launched in Paris in March 1998 and has been digitized as part of Vogue Runway’s ongoing effort Part of the record fashion history shows.
Many traditional houses in 50 are being remodeled as fashion becomes increasingly corporate. For example, the trials and triumphs of Christian Dior’s John Galliano and Givenchy’s Alexander McQueen are well documented. Marc Jacobs also ended up at a famous fashion house in Paris, but under a different remit. He was tasked with creating something from nothing – a ready-to-wear collection for a leather goods and accessories company that had never existed before. “When Bernard Arnault asked me if I would do it, it took me about five seconds to say yes,” Jacobs recalled in an interview with 1998 on The Financial Times. “Design is always subjective, but quality is objective, and that’s what attracted me to Louis Vuitton.”
Coincidentally Jacobs’ debut, because Autumn 1998 coincides with Martin Margiela’s endorsement for Hermès. The media dubbed the incident the “Battle of the Bags.” In doing so, they have more voices than any single designer, all striving for simple different variations. Jacobs’ collections are full of Parisian flair. There is an almost Puritanism to his modest stature and limited palette. “The 50 clothing line is so hip, New York minimalist that its impact is severely undercut,” The Guardian wrote at the time. “The clothes contained the sort of inverted snobbery that put secret societies out of place. Even more shocking than Jacobs’ understated approach was the fact that there was only one bag on the show, and it (like the clothes) had no obvious logo.” When Vuitton’s products introduced a whole new category, Jacobs started from scratch, and he translated the concept into a design as basic and clean as the geometry of a suitcase, an iconic LV referenced by the designer in a statement of his involvement. Works Vogue, July 1998 issue of “Backstage News and Notes” feature, reproduced below.
“Marc on Vuitton” “I think people expect a lot of monograms. It’s impossible to please everyone, but we’re starting from scratch—a company that’s never made clothing before. Modern, classic, and luxurious, the clothes are the backdrop for a luggage company—functional and functional. Is this too utilitarian for the French? Well, you know, one of the first Louis Vuitton suitcases was gray and flat so it could be stacked. It’s practical; I mean, there’s a method to all this madness. Also, initially there are no monograms outside. Later, Vuitton was copied a lot, and he changed it into stripes. Then check. Then there are the initials, which, by the way, were inspired by Japanese art in Paris at the time. I’m now an expert on it all.
Vuitton is a luxury brand – it’s functional, but it’s also a status accessory. I decided to accomplish status my way, that is to say invisibly. That means the Vuitton logo is embossed on the crossbody bag, in white text on a white background. To me, that’s status: definitely not another century or obvious decoration. It is a mistake to think that everything in fashion has to be the same, that everyone has to follow one trend, and that there is only one status. You can’t compare a beaded dress to a simple cotton raincoat.
Also, I don’t think Louis Vuitton is necessarily French. This is internationalized. I see Vuitton bags in airports all over the world. Look at Hello!
magazine, John McEnroe in a white shirt, jeans, raincoat, and a Vuitton bag. This is the sexy and charming image that Louis Vuitton should have. “