• Brooke Roberts-Islam

Louis Vuitton's LV series 3: a carefully curated but unrevealing exhibition

LV Series 3 is a curated, commercial look inside the fashion powerhouse, Louis Vuitton. Sometimes commercial is synonymous with overly accessible and cheap. That’s not the case here. It is the case, however, that this exhibition has been assembled to lead viewers through a carefully crafted experience of digestible soundbites and images of Louis Vuitton’s luxury wares, rather than revealing the inspiration behind Nicholas Ghesquière’s fourth Women’s ready-to-wear show as Artistic Director, which is how the exhibition is billed.

I should mention at this point that I took a guided tour to have the full LV Series 3 experience and this was probably a mistake. The gentleman taking us on tour certainly looked the part, but was definitely not well-versed in the Louis Vuitton brand or the manufacturing and presentation techniques he was attempting to explain. Beginning with a (somewhat flimsy) explanation of who Louis Vuitton was and how his fashion house came to be (from the humble roots of a travelling case maker in rural France) he went on to point out an imposing metal sculpture suspended from the ceiling of the first room and cited it as Nicholas Ghesquière’s ‘inspiration’ for the collection. Again, flimsy. That said, he was endeavouring to deliver an inspirational glimpse into a world crafted on quality and luxury and that came across.

The exhibition is constructed across adjoining rooms and draws together the large scale geometric sculpture above, projected graphics of the runway models being interviewed in an interestingly disorientating round room and mounted screens in mirrored galleries.

There is also a stunning white oasis filled with Plaster of Paris mannequins cast in the silhouettes of the collection, complete with fabric surface details creating a textural foundation from which to mount shiny and tactile bags, shoes, sunglasses and belts.

In one of the simpler rooms the bag manufacturing process was demonstrated by a skilled craftswoman who usually constructs bags at the Louis Vuitton’s manufacturing hub in France. She assembled the bag amongst a myriad of components on a huge work surface, demonstrating the process from beginning to end. There is a genuine thrill in seeing this process, and this is where the exhibition gives a behind-the-scenes look inside the creation of the product and starts to feel more substantial. I inspect the bag and jokingly note the “Made in France” label should technically be changed to “Made in England”. Blanks.

Continuing in the theme of craft and creation the next room is darkly lit and illuminated by a laser beam style animation, mimicking the cutting of leather bag and shoe pattern pieces. The animation seems designed to suggest this process is digital, which is an odd contrast to the hand-craft demonstration of the same product in the previous room. Having experience of digital pattern cutting and laser cutting of materials this animation is not a true representation of either. It does create a palpate impact with viewers though – so the digital presentation value is obvious.

The message of quality and craft features throughout the exhibition and the runway show played across multiple screens in a mirrored split level gallery showcases the Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, putting the viewer in the front row.

This exhibition makes me think about the Givenchy show which decamped to NYC this season, offering 900 tickets in a ballot for members of the public to sit alongside members of the fashion industry to experience Riccardo Tisci’s SS16 collection. There has been a noticeable shift of power in the fashion industry towards the public, with mass utilisation of Instagram and the powerful connection the public are making with fashion bloggers and other influencers across social media. Putting the public front row is a brilliant marketing tool, exponentially increasing coverage through sharing of images on social media. The Givenchy show and this LV Series 3 exhibition are signs that luxury brands are taking note of the shift in power in the industry and engaging with consumers on a strongly digital level. Perfect for securing the future of the brand by connecting with Millenials.

The exhibition stays very ‘top level’ in that there is no revealing information about the creative design process – just the glossy final product itself. There is a final room of garments hanging in a glass cabinet, some of which are accessible to touch and remove, others are not. Overall, the exhibition looks fantastic and bears great photo opportunities throughout. It is completely Instagram friendly and utterly sharable. It’s an fun trip through a set of cool rooms and galleries, but light on deeper concepts and revelation.

On reflection, having interviewed fashion designers, computer scientists, coders and artists over the past few weeks for this and my Huffinton Post blog, the importance of authenticity and sharing the story of he work – whether it be robotics, the creation of a coat or the crafting of a sculpture – is what people ultimately connect to. When overly produced, sanitised and ‘slickified’ the story is lost, along with that all important sense of authenticity. This seems particularly poignant here, given the LV Series 3 exhibition is in London against what has historically been a backdrop of highly creative and at times makeshift fashion design bursting with powerfully honest ideas, uncompromising vision and rampant self-expression – the celebration of the designer’s imagination and dreams. I studied fashion design in London and I believe it’s part of a London designer’s DNA. I now tell my students the same – albeit with a more Industry-focussed tinge given my experience – focus on concept, ideas and process. The slick, professional finish will come.

It’s hard not to appreciate and feel illuminated by the cobbled together proof of concept of a DIY robot or a quick sketch of a character design that will be crafted in cardboard before being shot and rendered digitally for video game. Seeing the process demonstrates authenticity and invites the viewer into the creative mind of the designer. In an age when we’re ‘authenticity’ obsessed it seems the urge to present a curated and careful image for consumption on social media may have bred a desire to hide the process. Fashion should let us in. We might just buy more product.

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