'The moment an idea becomes repetitive or predictable then any sense of creativity is lost.' Thus spoke Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, commenting on the brand's latest project, which is indeed distinctly unpredictable and unrepetitive.
Pioneers in the fashion world for opening their arms to collaborations with a range of surprising artists (notably Takashi Murakami, who graffitied the precious Monogram in 33 colours, Olafur Eliasson, who created a pitch black lift in the Paris flagship store, and Richard Prince, who teamed up with Marc Jacobs to design the S/S 2008 bag collection) the historic, luxury brand yesterday unveiled their Christmas windows in London's flagship - the result of a competition with the iconic design college, Central Saint Martins.
Laughing in the face of any potential risk associated with handing the reins over to students, Louis Vuitton held a competition back in March of this year, commissioning 80 graduates from the BA course to come up with a design for the Christmas windows, to be featured in all 380 stores worldwide.
'The brief was pretty non-existent,' said winners Christopher Lawson (21, from Ireland) and Marcos Villalba (26, from Spain), 'so we did our research and isolated the things we felt were the essence of the brand, focusing on travel, wood and Asnieres, the historic workshop.'
The result is 'Latitude 48.194 / Longitude 02.286', a masterfully simple creation and a synthesis of the brand's core principles: a three-dimensional topographical map of the area surrounding Asnieres, made from poplar wood, used for the frame of the Louis Vuitton trunks since 1854. Graphic, abstract, poetic and historic, it is proof that creativity is not something acquired through age or experience.
'For us it was as much a matter of concept as feasibility,' explained Carcelle about the judging process. 'We learnt a huge amount from the students, too. It's interesting that in the whole history of Louis Vuitton, no worker has ever thought of travel in terms of latitude and longitude until now. The concept was extraordinary but the feasibility was equally clever. The simplicity of the design meant that it could arrive at any sized window in store in the world and be assembled in two hours.'
And what is the significance of working with students on a project of such vast exposure? 'It's a very considerable part of our philosophy to encourage the next generation of creatives, and for us we find there's a freshness discussing things with students.' Carcelle is the first to admit that 'Paris is the heart of luxury, but London is the heart of creativity.'