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Pattern Recognition


Marc Jacobs and Takashi Murakami’s long-discussed Louis Vuitton Monogramouflage pattern was unveiled at Thursday’s gala exhibit opening and, as you might have expected from the impish Murakami, it takes the logo to some very new places.

Messrs. Jacobs and Murakami keep LV’s geometric symbols, but switch up the regal purple-and-gold pattern for a squiggly pop-art camo that’s more suited to comic books than oil paintings. It’s more in line with Murakami’s aesthetic than Jacobs’ or Louis Vuitton’s, and it raises more than a few questions about where Jacobs plans to take the brand.

Louis Vuitton has been selling an image of old-world decadence for more than a century now, and they pushed the image even harder as they morphed from an artisinal workshop to a multi-national luxury behemoth. (Dana Thomas has spent hundreds of pages on this point.) The old pattern was a relic of the European craftsman days; it was what the actual Louis Vuitton used when he was still making luggage for royalty. Seeing it on handbags from Wichita to Dubai was a stretch, but you knew what you were buying.

But Murakami and Jacobs’ pattern is too playful for that. The black monogram is a reminder of the old days, but no more than that. Mashed against the squiggly green-and-beige, it looks like a parody of the old purple-and-gold, and maybe a parody of Louis Vuitton in general. It looks like a knockoff.

Which makes this a pretty risky move for old Louie. Monogramouflage is a lot more artful than the old pattern, but it remains to be seen whether it will be as profitable.