Louis Vuitton may not have started making ready-to-wear until Marc Jacobs arrived on the scene as creative director 15 years ago, but clothing has always been an integral part of the brand's journey. Having honed his trunk-making and packing skills as an apprentice at Maréchal's, Mr Vuitton set up his own brand in 1854, touting himself as the 'specialist in the packing of fashions'. His was a serious business, when you consider that a lady was required to change outfits around six times a day - a single journey easily requiring up to 30 trunks.
Delving into the brand's rich history and celebrating its present glories, the 'Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs' exhibition at Paris' Musée des Arts Décoratifs presents the parallel stories of the brand's two personalities, and underlines their individual contributions to fashion.
The show offers an in-depth look into the fashion industry during Vuitton's 19th century industrialisation and Jacobs' 21st century globalisation. Cleverly, it makes use of the museum's 19th century fashion and accessory collection, which bolsters the display of Louis Vuitton's trunks on the first floor. A wall displays what women would have been expected to travel with when Vuitton was a young man - helping one to understand how the services of a packer may have been an essential requirement.
Marc Jacobs's challenge, when he joined the company in 1997, was to introduce womenswear and menswear collections to the 143-year-old company's remit. Without losing sight of the signature house codes throughout his tenureship, Jacobs embarked on a power-charged creative process that has seen the brand take on artistic collaborations with the likes of Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince - bottling the 'fashion and art' formula that has now become the standard in the fashion industry.
The second floor channels the Jacobs cult that has been steadily building up over the 15 years he has steered the Louis Vuitton ship. The world of Marc the man, explored in the exhibition with a selection of his most emblematic designs, also features a witty video wall display that gives visitors a glimpse of what makes him tick. Here, photographs and extracts of films selected by Jacobs (down to the actual frames), feature the likes of Barbra Streisand, Leigh Bowery, SpongeBob SquarePants, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie, Miuccia Prada and Peter Marino.
It's an explosive, fun, and entertaining mix. There is the 'peep show' room, which has every single video from all the Vuitton fashion shows. Meanwhile, an edit of clips of Marc Jacobs taking his customary finale bow after each show fascinatingly sums up not only his physical transformation through the years (he loses the ponytail, glasses and becomes increasingly buff), but also how his quick wave and tentative steps onto the catwalk have progressed into the more confident swagger of today. And it's not just the displays that entertain, the captions are equally attention-grabbing, with titles such as 'Oh! Gram', 'From Hair to Eternity' and 'Bluey Vuitton'.