Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Louis Vuitton

by Sara Martin

In the beginning there was the Speedy, and the Speedy was great. (Well really before the speedy there was a whole slew of things, including the signature “Damier Canvas”, but our concern is the speedy post "Damier", the one that wears the classic monogram). The Classic monogram first appeared in 1896 to prevent counterfeiting and the son of Vuitton himself created it (Georges Vuitton). In 1936 after the Death of George, his son took over, and collaborated with Nazis, creating over 2,000 busts for the Vichy regime (responsible for the deportation of French Jews into Germany), glorifying Petain, but lets forget that. Georges’ son Gaston-Louis, is the one responsible for ‘perfect(ing) a new method of coating, which is still being used today.’ So how did the speedy bag boasting this prestigious logo become one of the most counterfeited bags out there? Modern technology, industrial advances, globalization. And loads of other events. Most Vuitton bags exibit a fairly simple design, and with the simplification of counterfeiting methods, and a demand to look the part, the bag rose to the top of the counterfeiting charts. Okay, so maybe there were no charts.. but if there were… And it certainly rests as one of the most counterfeited bags to this day.

When Marc Jacobs took over he thought of doing away with the logo all together. He's quoted as saying

"When I arrived at Louis Vuitton 12 years ago, and I was figuring out how to create a new tier of Vuitton for a different customer, I thought it would be clever to hide that monogram," Jacobs said, "which was very stupid of me. That logo is part of what makes the Vuitton so desirable. It allows people to become members of an aspirational club."

"The real Vuitton will always be about a level of quality and attention to detail that makes it aspirational," Jacobs told the Times. "It's about display and when that gets out of control it's a disaster, but in moderation, it's lovely. You can either be ashamed of having pride in your appearance or you can relish it in an intelligent way."

What is he talking about?

That merely carrying the monogram doesn't cut it.

One cannot merely own luxury objects and expect to be luxurious. Jacobs indicates that one must carry luxury intelligence. Knowing how to use luxury.

The product must make you proud of yourself. This indicates some kind of balance between self and expression is needed. It is not merely the object that carries is value, but the heritage of the object. What the object can offer, immaterially, through involvement in certain habits. For example Vuitton has a long standing involvement in travel, so those who love travel, may love Louis. There must be a sychonomy between wearer and object.

Take Lady Gaga for example. Not anyone could dawn a plastic dress, and look and feel fabulous in it, but for a woman as such, the dress expresses her sense of pride. It makes a statement. And this statement must be synchronous with the wearer.

And people notice when it isn't.

There is a different luxury for everyone. Trying to look as if you have a personal helicopter when you don't is foolish, but it doesn't mean that you cannot have your own sense of pride in expression, and quality. Living beyond one's means is not luxury. Luxury is finding the best quality of life and items that you can find with your means, and always, always aspiring to do better. Vuitton's bags most definitely adhere to this abstraction. (Example again) If one loves to travel, one will love to travel with Vuitton.

But what about those who don't offer the abstraction that is luxury?

This is where the issue of counterfeits comes in. The sheer existence of a demand for counterfeits exemplifies the existence of the separation of luxury, and luxury goods. A good can appear to be luxury, but carry none of the values of luxury, instead of inspiring quality, it inspires quantity. Instead of personality, consumerism. The message of the counterfeit is ultimately not at all that of the real item. Of course the real thing can be used as the counterfeit, and the counterfeit as the real thing. Everything exists in one's perceived relation to their actions and affiliations. Many people who found they had received a fake, when they paid for the real thing would be absolutely appalled, even if there is no visible difference in the two products. Considering the violent means of counterfeit production choosing to buy the real deal becomes not only an aesthetic, but an ethical decision. Which brings me to my next point, which is the Murukami/Vuitton Collaboration.

The Murukami bags add another level of symbolic authenticity. Cultural Authenticity. The artist has collaborated with Marc Jacobs to create a line for Louis Vuitton. Each bag carries a piece of modern culture, part of a 'great, global, post modern, prodigy'. His involvement adds care to the design process, bringing the wearer and the designer or producer closer, because of course he is known in the mainstream. Having a bag designed by a great artist, brings you closer to him, supports the arts, etc. Buying the bag becomes an ethical decision. Where if one buys the bag, one supports the artist. One can be cultured in the purchase. Only the authentic will make such a cultural contribution, so the counterfeit is pushed further and further from authenticity.

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