A drunk man, they say, uses a lamppost for support rather than illumination. This sentence could be rephrased and adapted to describe the current fashion trend for collaborations between various brands, employed not to introduce genuinely revolutionary ideas, but a cult product in a limited edition that may sell fast, generating at the same time a useless amount of media revenue.
We have seen in yesterday's post The North Face collaborating with Junya Watanabe and Sacai, but the biggest and most famous of such collabs launched during Paris Men's Fashion Week was the one between Louis Vuitton and Supreme.
The collection was actually introduced by rumours sparked by Louis Vuitton's menswear creative director Kim Jones himself who recently posted on Instagram an image of a Vuitton monogram canvas decorated with a Supreme smiley sticker.
Showcased in a transparent tent in the Palais-Royal gardens in front of VIP guests including David Beckham and Kate Moss, the collection confirmed that Louis Vuitton had indeed collaborated with cult New York skatewear brand.
The runway opened with a model carrying a red Supreme bumbag strapped to his chest, followed by more styles including a backpack holdall and messenger bag. Supreme's logo featured prominently on most of the pieces with smaller LV initials. There were also a few co-branded garments such as a a baseball denim shirt and denim jackets decorated with the Supreme and Louis Vuitton logos.
The house even produced a red-and-white monogram skateboard with a bespoke trunk and matching tool kit and a very prententious Perspex case for a Technics 1210 turntable, the latter inspired by Jones' DJ friends who are moving back to vinyl.
Jones stated the collection was inspired by New York art stars such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Baquiat's own personal style combining expensive designer clothes with second-hand pieces, was evoked by the roomy coats, wide-legged pants and sweaters characterised by a relaxed silhouette. The camouflage prints were instead hints at Andy Warhol's camouflage paintings.
Yet the collection included quite a few pieces dedicated to an older consumer, such as leather trench coats, shearling coats and shearling motorcycle jackets. A touch of vintage elegance was introduced via pajama shirts with prints of Vuitton advertising images from the '30s.
These hints proved that maybe the house was just playing at being all street savvy and cool, young and casual, since many of the silhouettes and shapes were definitely aimed at a clientele of various ages and physiques.
Jones expressed his genuine appreciation for the brand and for its founder James Jebbia, highlighting that the French house and the streetwear brand worked on this project for a year.
And while you want to praise Jones' passion and dedication, and it is clear that, commercially speaking, cobranded goods are definitely in (after all, it is perfectly understandable that a brand with an easily recognisable logo may search for an equally desirable one to create a product with an extra dose of prestige, a strong aura of authenticity and therefore more selling potential...), this collaboration looked pretty dystopian and faker than others.
Why? Well, in the past appropriating and subverting was the rule with streetwear brands that often poked fun at luxury houses in a tongue-in-cheek way. Then, as the years passed, things changed a bit: Supreme partnered with various brands, including Comme des Garçons, Aquascutum, Undercover and Nike, but working with Vuitton didn't seem to be on the agenda considering that the fashion house issued in 2000 a cease-and-desist letter to Supreme for designs such as a skateboard that incorporated the French house's monogram and colour pattern.
Even decades before Vuitton complained with Supreme about using the French house logo, bootlegger Dapper Dan, also known as the hip hop tailor of Harlem, used to create in the '80s DIY designs from fabrics covered in brand logos such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton. In a way, this was all ironic and dangerously cool, as the designer played around with power and luxury products/logos in a fun way.
At the time Dapper Dan wasn't appreciated by the same houses that now perversely pursue such collaborations. Now they are turning to the streetwear aesthetic, almost begging for it, and it feels a bit like cheating, using somebody else's old ideas, finally admitting they were better than yours.
So, the final verdict? This is definitely no Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali collaboration, but a desperate attempt at attracting the volatile attention of young consumers, a well orchestrated profit-oriented marketing stunt with no sincerity, since Supreme doesn't need Louis Vuitton and the latter doesn't need the former.
The collaboration will be released in Vuitton and Supreme stores in July, but will probably also be available in temporary locations. Before queing up in front of the shops, consumers with limited budgets should remember that they may be able to buy a bag, bottle openers, gloves, and phone cases, but the made-to-order pieces are definitely not for your average streetwear fans. A vicuña trenchcoat or a shearling-lined crocodile jacket will cost over $100,000, proving that some pieces from this collection are definitely aimed at extremely wealthy men, or at celebrity kids and their parents.