FROM THE MAGAZINE

200 Creatives Celebrate Louis Vuitton’s 200th Birthday

To commemorate its founder’s bicentennial, the French house invited a group of visionaries to play around with a shape central to its history.

Illustration by Raque Ford

Clockwise from bottom left: Louis Vuitton “Louis 200” trunks designed by Zad Moultaka, Peter Marino,...
Clockwise from bottom left: Louis Vuitton “Louis 200” trunks designed by Zad Moultaka, Peter Marino, Napkin Poetry Review, Susan Miller, Karl Hab, Edward Granger, Ibrahim Kamara, Thomasine Gloves, Kunle Martins, BTS.

Little is known about the life of Louis Vuitton. The man whose initials have become synonymous with luxury made his living as the French aristocracy’s preferred trunk-maker and packer, after leaving home at 13 years old to master the craft. Beyond that, many of the specifics have been lost to the sands of time. But we do know that he was born on August 4, 1821, at 3 a.m., in Anchay, France, a hamlet in the Jura Valley, which is enough information for Susan Miller, the Internet’s favorite astrologer, to draw up his birth chart: Mr. Vuitton was a Leo, with a Cancer rising and a moon in Libra. “Leos want uniqueness. They want something different. They never want to copy anyone. They want to create,” Miller tells me via Zoom, shortly after the 200th anniversary of Vuitton’s birth. “That’s why they’re so successful, especially in entertainment, and the arts and design. Oh, some of our greatest designers are Leos!”

Miller is one of 200 creatives selected by Louis Vuitton (the brand) to commemorate the bicentennial of Louis Vuitton (the man) with a charitable artistic project that nods to the cornerstone upon which the house was built. This fall, physical and digital “trunks” designed by talents as diverse as the K-pop group BTS, the stylist Ibrahim Kamara, the feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, and the artist Urs Fischer will appear in store windows around the world. Beyond being confined to a basic cuboid shape, the contributors, who each had 10,000 euros donated on their behalf to one of 15 nonprofit organizations, were given carte blanche. Kunle Martins, an artist and founding member of the IRAK graffiti group, covered the exterior of his trunk with graffiti and stickers, playing with the idea of an allover lettered print. “The repeat logos are a theme I liken to taking the same tag over and over again throughout one’s graffiti career,” Martins tells me. “It’s a living monogram.”

Clockwise from bottom left: Louis Vuitton “Louis 200” trunks designed by Peter Marino, Gokcen Yuksek, BTS, Stephen Sprouse, Franky Zapata, Antony Micallef, Edward Granger.

Peter Marino, the architect known as much for his slick, luxurious structures as for his propensity for black leather fetishwear, looked to the stunt performer Harry Houdini for inspiration. “I set out to create a trunk that not even he could get out of,” Marino says, noting that in 1912, Houdini performed an underwater trunk escape that took him only two and a half minutes (and later, less than one minute) by shifting a panel, opening up the trunk just enough to slip out. “I designed tight-fitting leather straps in order to avoid any chance of shifting panels over. The challenge is now open to any aspiring Houdini to try to escape.”

From left: Louis Vuitton “Louis 200” trunks designed by Napkin Poetry Review, Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

Miller, naturally, kitted out her trunk with a to-scale diorama that reflects the position of the planets at the time of Mr. Vuitton’s birth. “I told the team we could use poetic license with the colors of the planets,” Miller says. “For example, Venus is a pile of sand. I mean, not very pretty. And she even has a few pockmarks on her face. She’s the planet of beauty, so we had to make her pink.”