Louis Vuitton Core Values Ad Campaign: Larissa Latynina and Michael Phelps

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz

This is the kind of extraordinary encounter that could only happen at the instigation of Louis Vuitton: a meeting of two generations, two nationalities, two cultures, but – first and foremost – a meeting of minds. Larisa Latynina, born in Ukraine in 1934, grew up during the dark days of the Second World War, but went on, throughout a career spanning more than a decade, to represent the Soviet Union at the very highest level. Not only did she triumph in the most prestigious international competitions, but she also won accolades for her outstanding grace and sportsmanship.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1985, Michael Phelps has lived the American dream, rising from modest beginnings to become one of the most decorated athletes in the history of sport.. The winner of more than 70 medals in international competition and multiple world-record holder, Phelps was described by fellow American swimming legend Mark Spitz as “not only the greatest swimmer of all time [but] maybe the greatest athlete of all time… the greatest racer who ever walked the planet”.

So what did these two sporting legends talk about? Their very different backgrounds and their shared path to glory. Their greatest moments and their abiding memories. Their personal journeys, in the world of sport and beyond. Certainly, Annie Leibovitz has captured them in animated conversation. Above all, however, what they agreed on was the importance of transmitting their passion to others – a value shared also by Louis Vuitton.

After retiring from competition in 1966, Larisa Latynina went on to coach the Soviet national team, and is credited with establishing her country as the dominant force in world gymnastics. Michael Phelps, meanwhile, is committed to sharing his success with others via the foundation he set up in 2008. Its aim, he says, is “to grow the sport of swimming and give young swimmers the opportunities I had when I started on my journey”.

The new Louis Vuitton Core Values visual will appear in international titles from 16th August 2012. Its tagline reads: “Two extraordinary journeys. Just one way to get there. Larisa Latynina and Michael Phelps. Gymnast and swimmer of legend.”

Image via Annie Leibovitz / Louis Vuitton