South African Nicholas Hlobo Redesigns Louis Vuitton Signature Bag

SOUTH AFRICAN artist Nicholas Hlobo joined five influential faces in contemporary art to redesign one of Louis Vuitton’s signature bags – the Arty Capucines Collection.

The launch coincides with “Louis Vuitton X,” a retrospective exhibition in Los Angeles featuring 180 items from Louis Vuitton’s archives. Described as an “immersive journey,” the two-floor presentation highlights iconic designs spanning handbags, travel trunks, perfume bottles, and silk scarves; celebrity-worn red carpet gowns; and creative collaborations from throughout the 160-year history of the French fashion house.

Hlobo joined Tschabalala Self, Alex Israel, Jonas Wood, Urs Fischer and Sam Falls in breathing new air into the house’s capucines in a new limited edition called Arty Capucines. 

Hlobo spoke to BAZAAR about the collaboration. 

Born in Cape Town in 1975, the South African artist is renowned for his awe-inspiring installations and intricate two- and three-dimensional objects that are both a commentary on the realities of his homeland since the end of apartheid’s legalised discrimination in 1994, and an investigation of his own cultural identity. Tactile materials such as discarded ribbons, leather, wood and rubber are melded and woven together to create hybrid objects that communicate the dichotomies of modern-day South Africa and Nicholas’ experiences within it.

Inspired by the flower within Louis Vuitton’s monogram canvas, his unique application to the Capucines bag intertwines fabrics, details, colours and patterns that give the illusion that these textures have grown organically from within its interior.

Only 300 of Nicholas’ Capucines bag will be made
Images: Supplied

“I wanted to mirror the ways in which I use different materials in my work,” Nicholas explained. “I stitch onto my paintings and drawings, and my sculptures are created by layering found materials such as leather, tyre tubes and copper pipes. I started by looking at the Louis Vuitton motifs, and in particular, the flower. I felt that I could interpret it as something blooming from the bag… an element literally emerging from it. Bags tend to have clean lines and I wanted to really break from that; to introduce bulging elements that do not have a sense of conforming, and the feeling that [something] is growing from beneath the bag’s surface.”

A playful iteration of Louis Vuitton’s monogram flower
Images: Supplied

Intricate yet heavy embroidery is the defining feature, communicating a beautifully dramatic, handmade hybrid of artist and brand, fashion and art. “It was about bringing together two different worlds,” Nicholas elaborates. “Louis Vuitton has its idea of perfection and beauty. I have my own standards of perfection but I approach it differently; I’m more curious about the ugliness that lies beneath the surface yet informs the beauty. Physical human beauty is not necessarily defined by surface skin; it’s determined by what’s happening underneath – how the bones push through the skin, muscles and ligaments – which is not beautiful if we were to look at it. This collaboration was a wonderful opportunity to ‘cut’ through the Louis Vuitton bag and make beautiful things grow out of it.”

Nicholas Hlobo braids in ribbon to his Capucines bag
Images: Supplied

And what beauty that has turned out to be. “The Capucines bag is an inherently moveable object and will take [my] work out into the public space,” Nicholas explains. “Ultimately, art and fashion are not so different.” He’s absolutely right.

Nicholas Hlobo’s Arty Capucines Bag is available now in a limited, numbered run of 300.

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