The trunk maker’s long-running relationship with Japan is getting the museum treatment. The retrospective exhibition “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” moves from Paris to Tokyo, near Louis Vuitton’s first store in the country, which opened in 1978. The show retraces Louis Vuitton’s journey from 1854 until today and includes more than 1,000 items from the archives of Vuitton, museums, private institutions, and personal collections, including trunks, bags, drawings, and photographs. A new, exclusive section dedicated to Japan has been added, including a trunk commissioned in 1883 by Itagaki Taisuke, an aristocrat and Japanese politician of the Meiji era, and a bespoke makeup trunk created in 2004 for Ebizo Xi, a famous Kabuki actor. Since the late 19th century, Louis Vuitton has had an especially strong connection with Japan, from the first elite Japanese clients, like Itagaki, to the collaborations with such contemporary Japanese artists as Takashi Murakami, which produced the eye-catching—and much copied—Monogram Multicolore bags. This season, Lightning, a character from the Japanese video game Final Fantasy, is a face of the ad campaign.
Gaston-Louis Vuitton—the founder’s grandson, who led the company from 1936 to 1970—“collected tsuba, the decorated guards commonly found at the base of the grip of bladed Japanese weapons,” says fashion historian Olivier Saillard, who curated the exhibition. Gaston-Louis’s father, Georges Vuitton, was fascinated by Japanese motifs, such as the mon, or family crests, which influenced the brand’s famed monogram; it was Georges who created the pattern of flowers, geometric shapes, and the famous “LV” initials that has since become the trademark of the brand’s bags and luggage.
“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez—Louis Vuitton” runs through June 19; 5-1-3 Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; louisvuitton.com.