Louis Vuitton Inspired by/Collaborated with Daniel Buren 2013

In 2013 Marc Jacobs was the creative director of Louis Vuitton and debuted a collection that was inspired by artist, Daniel Buren. The inspiration went even further when the designer and artist collaborated on an ad campaign, window displays and the set of the collections Paris runway show. Each incorporated squares and symmetry, pairs and contrast and tied into both Louis Vuitton’s Damier pattern and Buren’s work.

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One color of Louis Vuitton’s Damier pattern (L) Les Deux Plateaux, 1986 By Daniel Buren (R)

Buren emphasizes that art is more important than the artist and he was part of the BMPT group whose name stands for its founding members. They implied that they often did each other’s work and challenged authorship. Buren still uses this mentality today having said, “Every time I use more than two colors, I am confronted with reasoning – why this color next to that color? So I either use colors by chance or ask different people who work with me to make the choice. That way I keep myself distant from any decisions about colors.” He has also said, “My art is different from my taste. My taste is of no interest to anyone else.”

Some would beg to differ. Buren is a French conceptual artist known for his minimal style and site-specific work. Best recognized by his signature stripes, Buren humbly describes his work as sculpture. “From the very beginning, I was always embarrassed by the term, an artist. The word sculpture would be certainly the closest to describe the aspects of the kind of work I do, which is three-dimensional.”

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La Cabane éclatée aux plexiglas colorés et transparents, 2017 By Daniel Buren 

Despite becoming an acclaimed artist, Buren is against calling himself one. He is also against using the term “installation” to describe his work. He prefers “works in situ,” meaning you cannot move the art. In an interview he said, “Installations are objects that you can put anywhere. I am not interested in installations.” Where Buren’s art is located is an extremely important part of his work. So much so that when Buren is invited to do an art show, he creates the art for it in the space it will be displayed. He doesn’t have a studio.

This used to be because he had little money but now it is just how he works. Not having a studio also had him start doing works in situ. He would go onto the streets of Paris and glue paper on walls in the city. The city became part of his work and this helped give him the mentality that his work is truly part of what it is surrounded by.

The work that mainly inspired Jacobs and became part of one of the courtyards of the Palais Royal in Paris was Les Deux Plateaux. It was done in 1986 and is still there today in the same city where Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854.

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Les Deux Plateaux, 1986 By Daniel Buren

Les Deux Plateaux covers a courtyard with 260 marble columns that are three different heights. They are arranged in a grid and incorporate Buren’s signature vertical stripes, which are 8.7cm wide and alternate between white and another color. This time that color was black. When the work of art was first done it was very controversial. People saw it as intruding on the courtyard but now it is loved by many. It’s a must see for countless people visiting Paris.

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Les Deux Plateaux, 1986 By Daniel Buren

The collection’s runway show also took place in Paris just across from Buren’s striped columns in a courtyard of the Louvre Museum.

Where Louis Vuiton’s Spring 2013 show took place

“His use of columns, stripes and checks intrigued me,” Jacobs said. Buren’s work was the inspiration for the fabrics, silhouettes and bags in the collection. You could even say that the silhouettes were columns themselves. The collection was made up of pieces that had very simple, straight shapes and that were three lengths: mini, midi and maxi. The three lengths were inspired by the three different column heights in Les Deux Plateaux.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Describing the collection, Jacobs said, “It is very pure, very simple, very strict. This is a graphic and powerful collection.” It was so simple that the signature “LV” monogram was not seen once.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

The collection could definitely be called simple but up close you would see that there was a great amount of detail. From afar you wouldn’t guess that there were feathers placed together and trimmed into squares. You also wouldn’t be able to see the extremely small sequins that were used. When I say extremely small I mean it. They were the smallest to ever be produced in the world and were stacked to different levels, giving pieces depth. You could say just like Les Deux Plateaux, with its columns being different heights.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Looks also had tufting, a carpet making technique, incorporated into them. Jacobs wanted to make sure that looks were not too rigid but still kept true to the mathematical theme of the collection and it’s marketing. Embroidery was used in a subtle way and the threads were cut to give a velvet or flock-like relief.

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Tufting in Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 collection 

Flower motifs were another tool used to help soften looks. Corsages with sterling silver stems were seen and flowers were splashed across other pieces.

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A look from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Despite helping to soften looks, Jacobs didn’t want soft and romantic flowers. He wanted them to be very graphic.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Some were opposing colors and when speaking of their contrast, Jacobs referenced mirrors and the geometry of twins in photographs by Diane Arbus. An American photographer that is famous for taking pictures of marginalized members of society.

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Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 By Diane Arbus (L) Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show (R) 

Arbus’ photographs also influenced the pairs of models that Jacobs sent down the runway and intended to be a bit unsettling. They were meant to look like twins and played into the repetition of patterns in the collection. The look of models was repeated as well as the colors that they wore.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Along with playing into the repetition in the collection, Jacobs wanted to play into seeing two things that appear to be the same but are not. This was also inspired by Arbus’ photographs and no pair of models came down the runway wearing the same thing. Their looks were always varied showing contrast in the collection.

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Looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

There was a theme of positive and negative that was not only apparent with the models’ varying looks and flowers but also with the checks seen throughout the collection, it’s show and it’s advertising. It would be easy to think these checks were just from Louis Vuitton’s Damier pattern but Daniel Buren greatly influenced them too.

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Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show (L) An advertisement for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection (R) 

Buren greatly inspired Jacobs and their collaboration came about after Buren received a letter from the designer. It said how much he loved Les Deux Plateaux and that he wanted to meet with him. Buren took the meeting and next thing he knew Louis Vuitton was accepting a rough sketch of his concept for the spring collection’s fashion show.

Despite Jacobs mainly being inspired by Les Deux Plateaux, what Buren designed for the set of the show referenced other work he had done as well. Buren said, “The references are closer to works I did forty years ago for example, using working escalators and, as for the chess grid, more recent works developed since the mid-eighties.”

The final set of a yellow and white-checkered floor and four escalators came together in impressive time. Buren’s meeting with Jacobs was just about a month before Paris Fashion Week, when the show would take place. He naively thought that he was going to have to design a set for next year! No such luck.

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Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show venue

Buren was given the guidance to incorporate escalators and he quickly put the concept of the show together. Four escalators were craned into the Louvre’s courtyard and his signature stripes were put on some of their steps.

On the day of the show, models used them to come to and from the checkered floor. Like the checks in the collection, the floor not only related to Louis Vuitton’s Damier pattern but also to Buren’s use of a grid in Les Deux Plateaux.

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Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show

Checks were also seen in the collection’s ad campaign. Buren created a set in New York City for photographer Steven Meisel to use and this same mathematical feel was brought to Louis Vuitton window displays around the world.

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An advertisement for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection (L) A Louis Vuitton window display for their Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection (R)  

Speaking of Spring 2013 Jacobs said, “I wanted to get away from storytelling and do something very mathematical and geometric.” With the help of Buren he definitely accomplished this. “Whatever hot new names appear on the Paris fashion week schedule, my goal is the same. Every time, I want to beat myself,” said Jacobs. We cannot wait to see what he does next.

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Marc Jacobs closing Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2013 show