This Fall, Louis Vuitton took to the streets of downtown Manhattan like it never has before. And no, we’re not referring to the influx of counterfeit bags popping up on Canal Street. To celebrate the rich history of the brand, the legacy atelier enlisted the help of Olivier Saillard to curate an exhibition for the public that would detail the adventures of the house of LV like you’ve never seen it before. Titled, “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez”, translating to mean “Fly, Vogue, Travel”, Saillard took us back to the roots of the label and a most humble beginning. Popping up from October 27th to January 7th of next year, Louis Vuitton planted new roots at the New York Stock Exchange as this New York-centric exhibition was entirely devoted to the red, white and blue and the Empire State, specifically. Pack your trunks kids, and let’s hope they’re monogrammed; Louis Vuitton is coming to town long before you have time to mutter, “ho, ho, ho”.
On a chilly, Saturday night, my roommate, Alex, and I ventured out into the cold with a 6:30 reservation to see some of the brands earliest and most iconic pieces. We were excited, to say the least, and after seeing my feed populated with Insta-perfect moments from the exhibit, we decided to dress up a little meaning I broke out my Fenty ‘Trophy Wife’ highlighter and put on some Boy Brow. Upon arriving downtown, we were greeted by a line that extended itself down the block. “Yo, is this for the 6:30 reservation?” we asked some folks near the front of the line. They nodded their heads, mumbling wordless nothings as if to say, yeah, fuck off. I silently LOL-ed and followed Alex towards what was the back of the growing line. While it was disconcerting to have my ambitions of simply strolling effortlessly into the exhibit foiled, it was also really amazing to see that this many people were interested in attending and let me say, there were definitely some people trying to vogue themselves in their lil’ outfits.
“What is this exhibit even about?” I asked Alex, “I feel like I should know more about this.” Thank god for Google, we passed the time reading aloud a review of what we were about to see as presented by Vogue. “Did you know that Louis Vuitton walked two years on foot to Paris at the age of 14 to become an apprentice trunk maker,” I exclaimed. But seriously, who actually knew that?
The line moved quickly after feeling enlightened and we were ushered inside by representatives of the exhibit who were clearly ready to call it a night. The process was similar to going to the top of the Empire State Building, snaking lines included. However, the mood lifted instantly when another representative came around to pass out pamphlets detailing the ins and outs of the exhibit. With the movement away from regionalization to globalism upon our cultured horizons, the exhibit seemed like a smart move for the brand as it became a part of this dialogue of migration and wayfaring.
As Grace Jones once said, “Pull up to the bumper baybay,” and that is just what we did. Nearing the front of the line, we laid eyes on the first bit of the exhibit, a virtual train station of sorts complete with its own Louis Vuitton Subway station plaque. People lined up for this one, striking a pose in front of the sign as if to officially let their Instagram followers know that, “I have arrived”.
The exhibit took us back in time through the brand’s rich 163 years of history. The craftsmanship of the trunks took center stage as we were witness to the evolution of luxury through the ages. The ways in which people used to travel seemed so posh, what with trunks that operated as standing wardrobes, and yet so foreign. The brand itself and its portrayal went from stating that LV was a “practical bag” that would “hold all rugs, pillows, boots, soiled linen” and was “splendid for automobiles, opens and shuts easily, only from Louis Vuitton” to monogrammed Supreme x LV skateboards that were never meant to be rode despite having the wheels and chops to get you there.
Around every corner you could see someone posing for an iPhone pic or uploading a picture to his or her Instagram story. There was this sort of mutual understanding between everyone there that you’d let someone finish their photo op before walking rudely in front to the next room, even smiling as you waited, perhaps even offering to snap a shot for them. Nothing seemed to bring fashion snobs and hype beasts alike together more than a well-curated selection of material things that none of us could have. The theme of the exhibit truly the captured the interactions that we all shared as we vogued and traveled our way through the two-stories of history of Louis Vuitton, sharing maybe but a significant paragraph in a chapter of our own lives. As Saillard expressed in his interview with Vogue, “Since the beginning of the story of Louis Vuitton himself, it is about travel, about bringing something with you in your trunk, in your bag, and this idea of travel is following the story of motion through trains, boats, planes, but also traveling in dreams, in art. That is for me, the soul of the brand.”
Convinced yet? Surely you’re feeling obligated to write (or vogue) your way into a smidgen of LV history and if so, here are some tips for your visit:
- Don’t go on a Saturday night: While our experience was still magical, the hoards of people simultaneously ogling that same heaven-sent hunk of leather as you tried to snap a photo sometimes provided a little difficulty. One of our other roommates went on a Monday and she was so alone that she even snuck her hands in to glaze Taylor Swift’s 2016 Met Gala dress (she’s a big fan).
2. For some perspective on the designer don’t move too quickly through the first couple rooms: From a poetic snapshot of Louis Vuitton in the forest, to early sketches of the brand’s logo, it’s understandable to want to head for the hills and run to the Supreme collab and drool all over the glass but if you’re looking for some perspective and nostalgia, I’d say pace yourself. Treat it like a museum, because that’s what this is, but only better.
3. Your best photo op is arguably in the corner of the room with the couture dresses: If you’re working a normal job and aiming to go on the weekend or after work and the exhibit is still crowded, this wall might be your best photo op yet. Since it’s in the corner of the room, it means you’re not waiting in line to take a snap in front of the Subway sign or under the plane. Other inspo for that perfect pic can be taken in front of these classic monogram canvases seen here but these are perhaps best for tight, portrait shots.
4. This book is the cheapest and best souvenir you can pick up: Published by none other Assouline, the book can be purchased at all of the VVV exhibitions worldwide. It features nine sections mirroring the exhibition itself and contains an introduction by Saillard and 200 illustrations that surely will give you chills long after the stock exchange goes back to being its boring self. The best part perhaps is that you’ll get one of those fancy Louis Vuitton shopping bags, because who said luxury wasn’t smart?