Jeff Koons x Louis Vuitton: Social Commentary or Fashion Statement?

“Whoever said imitation was the highest for of flattery should have added a clause on shameless plagiarism”

Those were my first thoughts when seeing the Jeff Koons x Louis Vuitton collaboration. As the originality elitist I am, I thought it seemed fit for the brand, considering current creative director Nicolas Ghesquière is essentially recycling Marc Jacobs’s vision.

Jacobs first started to collaborate with modern artists in 2001, with the intervention of urban artist Stephen Sprouse. Before Sprouse’s intervention, the iconic LV monogram was sacred…and outdated.

Sprouse’s line was a success. Since then, the brand has collaborated with the likes of Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.

Needless to say, as a longtime fan of Koons I was beyond excited when news broke out of a collaboration. Ghesquière had big shoes to fill, seeing as this is the first time an artistic intervention is done since Jacobs stepped down as creative director in 2013.

As a fan of Koons, I found the collection a little underwhelming but still couldn’t shake the feeling there was a reason for it all. I sat down with Nico, manager of Louis Vuitton Cancún, to discover that my intuition was right.

According to Nico, the purpose of the collection was to spur controversy in some way, and that’s how the artists and paintings were chosen.

That could be obvious for say, Fragonard’s juxtaposition of female sexuality and innocence or the mutilation of the subject on Rubens’s painting. But what’s so controversial about the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s summer fields?

“The Mona Lisa itself might not be controversial, it’s more of what it represents as a concept and to the french”, explained Nico, “think about it, millions of tourists flock to France each year just to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. How did a piece from an Italian man, featuring a merchant’s wife, become a symbol of France? It’s been reproduced to death and plastered in every single variation of a souvenir.”

“So then why choose it for this collection? Isn’t it redundant? Especially for a Paris based fashion house.”

“My best guess is the irony of it all.”

Slapping the image of the Mona Lisa (which can be seen in the flesh for a few euros at the Louvre) on a coveted luxury item can be interpreted as a hypocritical or even grotesque commentary on the relationship of art, fashion and capitalism.

Where art ends and business begins when it comes to fashion makes it the more confusing; fashion is an outlet of self-expression, but the industry has been known to thrive with exploitation and the monetization of abstract concepts. Such as, exclusivity and its implication that this makes for a superior product.

The art we breed into the world should be for everyone to see, not only those who can afford it. Perhaps, the thinly veiled irony of the Koons collaboration, is the antithesis of just that. That art is not only to be seen, but worn (by a privileged few), and the inclusion of the Mona Lisa to this gives the wearer the subconscious association to Parisian glamour. But also, giving the wearer the role a mobile museum, in a way objectifying them just the same as a talking, breathing handbag display.

In the end, the psychology behind luxury shopping is exactly that: possessing the unattainable. As for Van Gogh’s role in the collection, it’s still up for interpretation. What it’s true is that each item represents a different concept, and like the original art pieces, looks to ignite something within us. What do you think about this collaboration?

This is part of a new personal project, in which I share and give my opinion on fashion news & history. The series will be composed of short articles that will be posted first on my instagram account. Thank you so much for reading.

Living in NYC. Business student, fashion designer, writer. This is where I publish my poetry and personal writing.