Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke on the Jeff Koons collaboration
Michael Burke, CEO Louis Vuitton spoke about the recent collaboration with Jeff Koos: “It’s a threesome: a great artist, a great brand and a great idea. Working with Jeff Koons just felt right. We’ve had many meetings and talked about many subjects – all art related. And this just clicked. He was super inspired,” said Burke in a phone call from his limousine en route to the Louvre for a celebratory gala dinner with the New Pop artist.
Koons uses five of his reproductions of paintings by great masters – Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; Ruben’s Tiger Hunt; Fragonard’s La Gimblette; Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses and Titian’s Mars, Venus and Cupid – to develop a series of bags, such as the Speedy, the Keepall and the Neverful for Vuitton.
“To me that is Jeff’s way of saying everyone is influenced by everyone. My favorite is the Rubens but that was inspired by another battle painting by Da Vinci. And Rubens riffed on it. We had no idea where he would take us. He had many, and conflicted, ideas – but in the end he went with Gazing Ball. The reflection, I guess, is what he liked. There is a clear collection between luxury and reflection. All the way back to the growth of the mirror in Venice. That’s what first started luxury rolling,” said Burke,
Vuitton has indeed made covetable bags before by artists like Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Stephen Sprouse. Though all of those, were link-ups led by the brand’s former creative director Marc Jacobs. His successor, Nicolas Ghesquière had nothing to do with the Koons partnership, which was hatched by Burke and executive vice president Delphine Arnault. Unlike, the other artists, Koons played radically with the LV Monogram.
“Eh, when he said yes – we did not know what he was going to do. He did not ask for permission. He just came back with a fully formed idea. Canvases and how can we not like that? And he was already playing with monogram. The word Jeff kept using was Humanistic. We met in New York and Paris or whenever and it was all very organic,” insisted Burke.
“It’s Five Masters, done by one artist for one house,” added Burke, who said the line – which is not limited edition – will be sold in one third of Vuitton’s 450 stores.
The launch comes a day after parent company LVMH announced late Monday that its fashion and leather division – the majority of which is Vuitton – had scored a 15% increase in sales in the first quarter of 2017 to 3.405 billion euros.
“Louis Vuitton is like a finally tuned V12. We are firing on all cylinders; hitting it in all countries and selling well in every product category. We have no real weakness,” insisted Burke.
Last week in Milan, over 6,000 people daily entered LV’s Objets Nomades show of 15 pieces of custom-made travel furniture, a line stretching around the block each day. While up in Courchevel, guests crowded into its invitation only presentation inside the Cheval Blanc – a LVMH Hotel – to capture its latest ideas in haute horologerie.
“We sold high-end watches – all limited edition, or one off, or bespoke. Average price 200,000 euros and we sold 35 of them. C’est pas mal,” the CEO laughed