The Magic Mountain. This season sees the Vuitton traveller, always journeying both literally and metaphorically, venture to the magical mountains of the Himalayas, particularly to the Kingdom of Bhutan.
“A collection is often an actual journey for us; it comprises what you take with you and what you bring back both physically and mentally from the experience”, explains Kim Jones, Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Studio and Style Director, working under the Artistic Direction of Marc Jacobs. “This season involved travelling to the Himalayas for research and it was the mountain Kingdom of Bhutan that still had that mystery surrounding it; it was almost a fantasy idea as well as a real place. Backpacking has not ruined Bhutan – you have to be invited there – and it feels so exotic, almost from another time. It is the only place in the world where snow leopards and tigers cross paths and that is one of the reasons why the snow leopard became a chief motif in the collection.”
The snow leopard pattern and motif reoccurs throughout the collection, making its initial appearance in a subtle and new needle punched jacquard technique incorporating naturally coloured mink and cashmere. It transforms a traditional double-breasted overcoat and a café racer blouson and later morphs into a laser cut mink coat. The figure of the snow leopard (a design commissioned by Louis Vuitton to the Chapman Brothers) also appears on neckties and pocket squares and is given full expression in an intarsia knit sweater.
There is a confluence of past and present in the collection, particularly of mountaineering tech and tradition. The silhouette is suitably layered and on the whole mixes tailoring with traditional yet technically advanced and luxurious outerwear. The shoulder is often built broadly to emphasise the masculine and heroic point of these garments.
There is a particular focus on furs and leathers in the outerwear; astrakhan, sheepskin, shearling, shaved beaver, fox and mink appear in and on blousons, parkas and overcoats – even as linings when not visible – in a palette of soft mountain greys, creams and tans. While down jackets utilize the elasticity, softness and durability of reindeer leather rendered in navy. Bull leather is found in a single piece to form fluid overcoats with laser cut pockets. The leatherwork in the collection often owes more to the strict maroquinerie of bag making than to that of clothing. Here, detail is all.
The figure of the gentleman climber is compared and contrasted with Bhutanese traditions and symbols; the checks and stripes of Bhutanese national dress inspire the mixed and matched patterns in much of the suiting in the collection. These fabrics are specially made in the finest of traditional English mills. Bhutanese blankets, specially woven from cashmere in the Kingdom, are transformed into ponchos. Traditional Bhutanese felts have their luxuriousness maximised by being formed in Yak hair and appear as almost seamless, soft structured jackets and coats with Himalayan stone buttons – stones from the top of Everest no less.
This season sees Jones commissioned the artists Jake and Dinos Chapman to supply key motifs in the collection. “I sat down with Jake Chapman and we talked through the idea of a Garden in Hell”, says Jones. “This was the phrase Diana Vreeland famously used to describe her apartment. It was something we both responded to, that and all of the unusual animals to be found in the Himalayas.”
The designs commissioned to the Chapman Brothers appear in silk and cashmere prints and jacquards in red and navy respectively. These anthropomorphic animals and creatures also feature on accessories, charms and motifs throughout. They appear almost like the Chapman’s own spin on the Buddhist idea of “wrathful deities”, fearsome talismanic protectors from evil and a bridge between the natural and supernatural world this season. They are a linking narrative thread throughout, building to the tour de force “Garden in Hell” eveningwear finale at the end of the show. Here traditional tailoring shapes and materials of the fifties contribute a literal, masculine heavyweight feel as a counterpoint to the extreme opulence of the “Garden in Hell” motif.
Louis Vuitton x Chapman Brothers
Dinos Chapman was born in London in 1962 and Jake Chapman was born in Cheltenham in 1966. They both graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1990 and worked as assistants to Gilbert and George before beginning to collaborate in 1992. The Chapmans weave a vast range of associations into their work, using material from all areas of the cultural landscape including philosophical theory, art history and consumer culture. They engage with inflammatory subjects and use subversive strategies to produce works that defiantly refute straightforward interpretation.
The Chapman brothers were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003.
“For Louis Vuitton’s Autumn-Winter 13-14 collection we were commissioned to create our own interpretation of a French baroque floral print. Using hand painted watercolour artworks from our archives, and inspired by the intricacies of Himalayan traditional arts, we added twisted and surprising elements to the creeping floral design; subverting and reinventing the classic.”
Images via Louis Vuitton