FROM STUDIO TO RUNWAY
BY: JOSEPHINE AMAKYE & HAILEY GABRON
Luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton started their year boldly by dropping the highly anticipated second collaboration with the Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. The two first worked together in 2012 under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs and released designs on only four of the signature bag silhouettes. 11 years later, the new collaboration includes hundreds of items displaying new iterations of her iconic designs, all of which provide consumers the chance to "Kusamafy" their lives. Motifs featured in the collection include pumpkins, figurative flowers, abstract faces, and her distinctive Infinity Dots. Her characteristic use of bright colors is unsurprisingly present throughout the collection as well. This pairing celebrates daring art and precise craftsmanship, becoming harmonious through fashion.
Notoriously known as the "Princess of Polka Dots," Yayoi Kusama first began painting as a child. Although she could not afford traditional art materials growing up, she improvised with mud and old sacks to begin crafting. A lack of formal art education, money, or support from her family, did not halt her ambition; however, she moved to New York in the 1950s to pursue her art career. Kusama quickly got to work, enrolling in the Art Students League of New York and creating a series known as the 'Infinity Net' paintings. She garnered notoriety in October 1959 by showcasing five of these paintings at the Brata Gallery at a time in which the art scene was male-dominated. Regardless, she aimed to reach large audiences and viewed fashion as a mechanism to advertise her work. She even started a line of dresses and textiles known as Kusama Entrepresis, which redefined the boundaries between art and fashion. Unfortunately, she faced problems in her personal life, often dealing with hallucinations and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Having difficulty balancing her immense workload and struggling mental health, Kusama decided to permanently admit herself into a psychiatric hospital, which has been her home and studio since 1977. She continues to address the stigmas surrounding mental health while being the world's best-selling female artist. Kusama openly discusses her struggles with the public, noting she fights pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method she has found that relieves her illness is to keep creating art. Her powerful words and beautifully distinctive art make her an incredible role model to upcoming artists and are part of what makes her such an amazing collaborator for Louis Vuitton.
Louis Vuitton undoubtedly channeled the audacious spirit of Kusama and her work into their marketing campaigns for the collaboration. Countless ad campaigns featuring various supermodels and celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Cate Blanchett, and Tom Brady showcased the rare, creative pieces. Additionally, featuring the Infinity Dots on their products provides Louis Vuitton with the same "Instagrammable" quality as Kusama's Infinity Room installations. In a daring move to further intrigue consumers, Louis Vuitton stores in Paris and New York installed giant animatronic figures of Kusama. These figures are as large as the buildings themselves and, therefore, impossible to miss. Consumer response is mixed; however, with some feeling overwhelmed by the constant, at times unsettling promotions and others captivated by the "Kusamafied" life. Ultimately oversaturating the media with the collab certainly did not harm Louis Vuitton, considering they ended 2022 with record-breaking success and a 17% increase in sales overall.
Throughout her life, Kusama remained authentic to herself, supported herself, and pursued her passions despite hardship. This wildly successful collaboration is an inspiring example of how hard work, consistency, and a genuine love for what you do will take you far.