Louis Vuitton x Supreme – genius or catastrophe?

By Anna Callahan

In January, Paris men’s fashion week saw a new collaboration between luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton and iconic streetwear brand Supreme. Consisting of monogrammed berets and relaxed tailoring, accessorised with shoulder bags and rucksacks emblazoned with Supreme’s signature red and white logo, this collection has stirred up the fashion world. It has stimulated discussion on what such a combination means for the industry.

Kim Jones, artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s ready-to-wear, has long been familiar with the Supreme brand. One of his first jobs was to unpack boxes for the company which imported Supreme to the UK. He has said that the brand is “something I’ve known all along my life. I just feel that the strength of their graphic versus the strength of the Louis Vuitton graphic, and that kind of Pop Art feeling — it works together perfectly.”

That ‘pop art feeling’ is nothing new for Louis Vuitton, which has partnered with artists such as Scott Campbell, Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama in the past.

The collection is a celebration of everything about New York, which Jones believes to have important ties to the Supreme brand. The official Louis Vuitton press release has described the project “as a comprehensive, exhaustive voyage, through every stylistic facet that comprises New York.” It goes on to name figures such as Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol as inspirations behind the range.

The two brands have clearly come a long way since 2000, when Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against Supreme for their release of T-shirts, beanies and skateboards featuring Vuitton’s trademark pattern. Supreme was forced to issue a recall for the collection- making it all the more covetable. Even today, these rare items sell online for more than genuine Louis Vuitton products.

Despite the new and exciting dynamic that LV and Supreme have brought to the fashion industry, the collection has provoked considerable criticism. Has Louis Vuitton lost anything of its high fashion desirability by collaborating with a streetwear brand?

Arguably not: it is certainly not the only major fashion house to tap into street and pop culture – with encouraging results. Marc Jacobs’ collaboration with artist Stephen Sprouse during his time at Louis Vuitton, Alessandro Michele’s project with graffiti artist Gucci Ghost at Gucci, or the ‘athleisure’ trend that has taken the world by storm are only a few examples.

Some are disappointed in Supreme for joining together with a company they once stood in contrast to. But we shouldn’t view the differences between the two brands as oppositional. Streetwear has been looking up to high fashion since Shawn Stussy created his own version of Chanel’s interlocked C logo, and luxury brands have been taking inspiration from the street for years. Recently, brands such as Vetements, Hood by Air and Off-White have made hoodies a regular occurrence on the catwalk: the line between streetwear and high-end fashion is becoming increasingly blurred.

The Louis Vuitton x Supreme partnership is the latest of several contributors to this change, which has taken both brands to the next level. For Supreme, it has taken founder James Jebbia one step closer to his goal of building a global lifestyle brand ‘like Polo Ralph Lauren’. For Vuitton, it has given the house an edge over its high fashion competitors.

The LV x Supreme collection will go down as a key moment in fashion history. It will no doubt soon become evident that it has opened doors for other brands to collaborate, sending the fashion industry in new directions.

Louis Vuitton x Supreme will be available at select Louis Vuitton stores, and possibly other temporary locations, from Monday 17 July.

Photograph: cchana via flickr

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