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Louis Vuitton’s classic Capucines handbag, launched in 2013, is named for the street in Paris where the business frst opened in 1854. Its architectural curved handle and recognizable trapezoid shape has, in recent years, acted as a canvas for some of the biggest names in contemporary art.
On October 30, six new silhouettes were added to the limited-edition collection, from artists Beatriz Milhazes, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Josh Smith, Henry Taylor, Liu Wei, and Zhao Zhao.
The special collaboration offers artists a chance to expand their vision, engaging with Louis Vuitton’s artisanal savoir faire and manipulating materials often new to their practice. The handle, the logo, the strap, the base—nothing is off limits for innovating new techniques and designs.
For Othoniel, that meant creating a handle out of black resin beads reminiscent of his large-scale sculpture. Smith translated one of his “name” paintings into intricate embroidery and stitching. Taylor lent his 2017 portrait of the late Noah Davis to the Capucines, which mixes cutting-edge laser printing and traditional marquetry. Liu opted to push beyond the borders of the bag with a sculptural intervention reminiscent of his presentation at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Zhao created a patchwork of pieces from five types of leather, sewn together just so.
Milhazes’s bag is perhaps the most technically advanced, using 18 different types of leather, novel marquetry, gold leaf, and silicone—created from a new work made specifically for this collaboration. Her Capucines, like her work, is a kaleidoscope of shapes, color, and pattern, with a notable peace sign.
Whitewall spoke with the artist, whose survey show at MASP and Itaú Cultural in São Paulo, “Avenida Paulista,” opens this month, about connecting with the artisans at Louis Vuitton Ateliers on making a labor of love.
WHITEWALL: How were you introduced to this collaboration?
BEATRIZ MILHAZES: In one of my stays in Paris, I spent one afternoon doing a tour in the family home and atelier of Louis Vuitton, in Asnières. It was where he lived with his family and started his business. Apart from the house, by a courtyard, is the workshop. It was wonderful meeting with the artisans and Learning the history of what is the soul of this incredible company.
WW: How did you want to engage with the Capucines handbag as sort of canvas for your work?
BM: The peace sign was the departure point for my design. In my work, I’ve been developing it in different ways as part of some paintings’ or drawings’ compositions. The axis of the bag is where the LV logo is placed, so I expanded the layout with dazzling optical discs from this point, combining the peace sign and the LV logo. I think that the world needs so much of peace and love, and this would be a nice possibility to make people show it around!
WW: How did you want to use color in this piece? And how did your experience with collage relate to creating this bag?
BM: Color and collage are conceptually connected to my studio practice. Capucines is a very classic handbag design. The details are charming and are what moved me into the adventure of creation. Through marquetry, it was a collage of leather cutouts following my original drawing. They were placed one next to the other, contrasting textures and colors.
The variety of color leathers and the old enamel technique for the metal parts of the handbag were my favorite materials to explore. But the real final touch was to place this vibrant composition on top of the beautiful and smooth white leather, which, when the bag is open, reveals a pink surprise. To work with the white was a challenging proposal but a special one.
WW: What was it like to work with the Louis Vuitton atelier?
BM: I’m an artist engaged with handmade practice and craftsmanship. All different kinds of art that require the hands of a human motivate me. From indigenous art to the manufacture of different decorative art, fashion, architecture styles—it belongs to the history of humanity. They are all about the belief that beauty takes you to a spiritual journey.
WW: Was there an aspect of this collaboration you’ve brought back to your studio?
BM: The meeting with the artisans at the Louis Vuitton Ateliers. Maintaining this tradition for centuries is an incredible thing and having visited this place was a privilege. It is the confirmation that a labor made with affection is the answer to success.
WW: As an artist, what will it be like for you seeing this piece out in the world, your work something people can carry with them?
BM: I didn’t want to make a sculpture or transform the bag into a kindof object that nobody could use. I wanted it to be usable! The person should be comfortable and feel good using it and, most important, have the belief that the world is going to be always better and that we are part of it! It would be enchanting to see it carried down in some streets that are the heart of the cities we love in the world, like the Burle Marx sidewalk in Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro!
WW: Tell us about your studio. What is the setting like? What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
BM: I’m a studio artist. My studio is the soul of my creative process. I need to recognize the space where I will be working as my space, with the atmosphere I need. My small team and I have a daily schedule. I need order and routine for my studio practice. It brings to me peace and concentration.
WW: What has been inspiring you lately?
BM: I feel like a scientist. My practice is a lot about introducing new elements to my paintings and watching how the ones will react to it. It’s evolved from this point to something new, another step to explore. I’ve been interested in the relation between nature and mathematics. I would say that my recent works are a mathematical dream!