2009 looks to be The Year of Stephen Sprouse. In addition to a glitzy Rizzoli coffeetable book by Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha (available January 13th at Amazon.com), the Deitch Projects Wooster Street Gallery curated Rock on Mars (through February 28th), a retrospective designed to be a living show juxtaposing art and fashion, for which Jeffery Deitch invited contributions from Louis Vuitton. To celebrate, Vuitton recently hosted an evening of events at the Deitch, the Bowery Ballroom, and the LV Soho store, its facade decked out in graffiti for the occasion, marking the launch of a new, limited-edition Stephen Sprouse Collection. All proceeds will be donated to Free Arts NYC, which provides under-served children and families with educational arts and mentoring programs. Louis Vuitton will also be making donations to the the Stephen Sprouse Memorial Scholarship Fund at New York's National Academy for Design, created in 2005 by Sprouse's mother, Joanne, to help fund after-hours arts education for students with day jobs in the arts.
The evening was hosted by LV Artistic Director Marc Jacobs and Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, and guests included Patricia Field, Brooke Shields, Donna Karan, Eva Amurri, Waris Ahluwalis, Agyness Deyn, Chanel Iman, Molly Simms, Paul Sevigny, Robert Verdi, and Nina Garcia, along with rock legend Debbie Harry, who performed at the Bowery Ballroom afterparty in front of a pulsating version of Sprouse's iconic rose design.
The new collection features Sprouse's iconic graffiti, as well as a digitized rose, originally created by the designer in the 1970s when he got his hands on a state-of-the-art Xerox color copier and started enlarging images several times until they became distorted and abstract; he then incorporated them into his designs, often sending images of roses as a thank you to friends. "I tried to use the things in Stephen's vocabulary, and give the collection the shape, silhouette and styling that Stephen would have done when he was at the top of his game," explains Jacobs about the collection which includes totes, satchels, wallets, scarves, bangles, and shoes. There is even a yellow gold padlock pendant covered in Day-Glo pink sapphires, emeralds and orange spessartines which spell out the LV graffiti signature. "It really is a complete homage, and a complete combination of what is Louis Vuitton, and what is this legendary icon, and then what are the icons and the lasting aesthetics that Stephen left in the fashion world."
Jacobs has long been an admirer of Sprouse, who started merging streetwear with high fashion in the 1980s, and is best known for his distinctive graffiti on art and clothing. However, it was a chance encounter with a piece of luggage that sparked their creative collaboration. After Jacobs was appointed Vuitton's Artistic Director, he was looking for a place to live in Paris. He visited Charlotte Gainsbourg at her rue du Bac apartment, where something caught his eye: A trunk in the corner of her room that was painted black, but with enough of the paint rubbed off for the Louis Vuitton Monogram canvas to show through. Her late father, Serge, was apparently responsible. "I thought this was very cool, very punky, and very anarchic, and it reminded me of my favorite work of art, Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q., where he painted a moustache on the Mona Lisa, and then made this play on words: elle a chaud au cul," says Jacobs. "It represented to me the idea of taking something iconic and venerable, something respected and old, and making it new again by defacing it."
In 2001 Marc Jacobs asked Sprouse to work together on Louis Vuitton’s spring-summer collection and together they created the iconic Monogram Graffiti collection: a series of handbags covered in graffiti that sold out before reaching stores. "I had this idea to kind of deface the Monogram, and I wanted to do that with graffiti, which to me was always a defiant act, a rebellious act, an anarchic act, but also something that creates a new surface and a new meaning with something old. So I thought whose hand and whose graffiti would mean something to me, and of course I went back to Stephen. I invited him to basically deface with his fabulous graffiti this iconic Monogram, therefore creating a new Monogram and a new way of promoting Louis Vuitton that was disrespectful and respectful at the same time."
Several months later, uniformed porters arrived laden with graffiti-tagged Monogram luggage, and models took to the catwalk for Louis Vuitton's Spring/Summer 2001 collection, wearing the artist's rose prints and carrying bags scrawled with graffiti. The bags sold out immediately, widely coveted and almost instantly elevated to the cult status they still enjoy today. After Sprouse died of lung cancer in 2004, Marc Jacobs paid tribute by using a leopard print created during the original collaboration for Fall/Winter 2006/07 on dresses, blouses, bags, and scarves.
- Lesley Scott
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