While fashion brands have been falling over each other to embrace the art world in the last decade, Louis Vuitton has always led the field. But instead of unveiling another high profile commission from a big-name artist, the label's latest arts venture is in an altogether more worthy vein.
The Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project is a three-year educational project that will give over 200 underprivileged young Londoners - the type not likely to own designer handbags - access to the inner workings of the contemporary British arts scene. Launched at the Royal Academy of Arts this week, it aims to equip the students with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue a career in the industry.
Louis Vuitton has teamed up with major art institutions on the project, including Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the South London Gallery and the Whitechapel Gallery. Together they will give the young recruits - aged 13 to 25 - the chance to interact with artists like Tracey Emin and Michael Landy, museum directors, curators and collectors.
The brand has supplied upwards of £1million for the project. One of its more meaningful ways of celebrating the opening of its New Bond Street Maison (28th May) the new scheme follows on from its exclusive Louis Vuitton Art Talks series, held in the studios of British artists like Sam Taylor-Wood and Antony Gormley, and its Art Walks programme, for which it takes clients and special guests on private tours of London exhibitions.
Luxury fashion brands are all attempting to bathe in the kudos that surrounds the art world these days, but Louis Vuitton's relationship with it has easily been the most varied. Since becoming Creative Director in 1997, Marc Jacobs has spearheaded a whole ream of collaborations with the likes of Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince. And next year, the label will unveil a €100million Frank Gehry-designed glass building in the Bois de Boulogne to house its new Louis Vuitton Fondation pour la Création. But budding student artists make a more unusual focus of its attention.